It is not uncommon for a Patriots player to spend his off day volunteering in the region. Whether it is helping build a playground at a local school with the Patriots Foundation or going out on their own to an organization that means a lot to them, many Patriots players pour energy and effort into their new home.
For Obi Melifonwu, playing for the New England Patriots is a homecoming, having grown up in Grafton, Mass. Though his teammates' decisions to give back to the local community aren't taken lightly, it means something a little different to Obi.
The Patriots practice squad player wanted to make sure he was taking time to put energy back into the region he calls home. This season, Obi has pledged to read with the kids of the Edgerley Family South Boston Boys and Girls Club every other week, and he kicked things off with a visit to the club on Oct. 29.
In a packed room of kids, Obi spoke about the importance of reading in his own life and showed off the club's new reading nook. Obi donated books with help from Books In Homes USA, wall decals and furniture to help encourage reading for those who attend the Boys and Girls' Club's after-school program.
"A lot of these kids, they don’t have the encouragement. I just wanted to do it genuinely because it makes me happy to be able to give back. Something like reading I think is very important, especially with young kids," he said. "I feel like it teaches them a lot of skills in order to grow in terms of learning how to speak to people, how to articulate their words and it’s just good for brain stimulation. I really wanted to do it because it was in my heart to do something for the community."
Obi's "Readers are Leaders" program is in partnership with Read with Reed 83, a program started by Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Reed, but this initiative will also bring another important person into the fold: Obi's mother, Tina.
Tina raised Obi and his siblings on her own, and Alyse Faielle, the Program Director at Edgerley Family South Boston Boys and Girls Club, said that is a situation many of the kids Obi will read to understand.
"It’s really great when kids can see successful adults that look them, have grown up like them, have been through their experiences," she said. "A lot of our kids can’t see past today, so it’s really huge to see the impact that he can have on them."
Obi hopes to use his influence as a Patriots player to double down on the things kids might be hearing at home.
"I think me being in here kind of shows them that it’s just not that single parent that says reading is important," he said. "For them to hear it from an outside source, from an outside person and somebody maybe that they look up to that reading is important and reading is fun, I think it gives them hope."
Obi isn't alone in his efforts to read to local kids. His mother will join him when she's able to, and he said that means a great deal because she is the reason he is doing this to begin with.
"It means a lot to me just because the person I am today is because of her," Obi said.