FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Jan. 10, 2019) - Back in September, the Kraft family and the New England Patriots Foundation hosted their inaugural Gillette Stadium marathon and half marathon. This was the first marathon of its kind and it was the only Boston Marathon qualifier run entirely in an NFL stadium.
Seventeen runners trained rigorously for the event, while also raising funds to support the New England Patriots Foundation and their efforts to combat homelessness. The foundation raised more than $70,000 through this charitable event and wanted to make an immediate impact on men and women who are living on the streets.
In early December, the foundation purchased more than 700 Empowerment coats to be donated to homeless shelter programs all across New England. These specially designed winter coats are durable, water-resistant and transform into a sleeping bag.
The Empowerment coat was first designed by a young entrepreneur, Veronika Scott, who wanted to provide a critical service to men and women experiencing homelessness. She started hand-delivering these coats to people living on the streets in Detroit. After seeing the positive impact of the coat, she wanted to be able to produce them in a higher quantity, but she needed some help.
"It started off by creating coats that turn into sleeping bags that we handed out for those living on the streets," said Veronika. "But then it quickly became about hiring the people that would need the coats in the first place and creating that job opportunity that helps them get to that stable point in life that they've always wanted."
Veronika decided to hire men and women who were living on the streets to help manufacture more Empowerment coats. The organization is now helping to break the cycle of homelessness and has provided meaningful employment to more than 50 individuals, all of whom have secured permanent housing for themselves and their families.
The Kraft family and the Patriots Foundation first learned about the Empowerment Plan five years ago. They were moved by the organization's unique story and wanted to support their efforts. That support has continued each year as the foundation continues to donate hundreds of coats to people experiencing homelessness in New England.
"There are hundreds of thousands of people across the United States that experience homelessness each year," said Josh Kraft, President of the Patriots Foundation. "It's critical that we help to break the cycle of homelessness and provide employment opportunities to these families. We admire that Veronika and the Empowerment Plan are stepping up to address this societal issue. We thank our Gillette Stadium marathon runners for their dedication and for helping to purchase coats that not only keep people warm during the cold winter months, but for also helping to lift people out of poverty."
In late December, the Patriots Foundation made a special visit to Pine Street Inn in Boston. They were joined by some of the Gillette Stadium marathon runners as they donated more than 150 Empowerment coats. The coats were hand-delivered to clients of Pine Street Inn that were living on the streets. Additional coats were loaded into vans as part of Pine Street Inn's Street Outreach program that offers clothing, food, blankets and health care to those who shun shelter life.
Carol Crutchfield, a native of East Providence, R.I., was one of this year's Gillette Stadium marathon participants.
"Running the inaugural Gillette Stadium Marathon was not only exciting, but a privilege," said Carol. "When the circles became tough, I thought of those who were benefiting from this race."
Back in 2011 and 2012, she ran the Boston Marathon as a charity runner for the Patriots Foundation. In September, she jumped at the chance to run the inaugural race and to once again raise funds for the foundation.
"This is the third marathon that I have run for the Patriots Foundation and I love what they stand for," said Carol. "Not only do they provide amazing opportunities to run, but also to see the fruit of your labor. Volunteering at Pine Street Inn and being allowed to actually hand the coats to someone, who is now out on the streets of Boston, was a tear-jerker. Overall it was a very touching and meaningful experience."
Thanks to the support of the Gillette Stadium marathon runners and employees of Kraft Sports + Entertainment, more than 700 coats have been distributed to homeless shelter programs in every New England state. The recipient organizations included Bridge Over Troubled Waters in Boston; Community Care Alliance in Woonsocket, R.I.; Crossroads House in Portsmouth, N.H.; Crossroads Rhode Island in Providence; Groundworks Collaborative in Brattelboro, Vt.; Lynn Ministries in Foxborough, Mass.; the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation in Buzzards Bay, Mass.; Preble Street in Portland, Maine; St. Francis House in Boston; South Park Inn in Hartford, Conn.; and the Women's Lunch Place in Boston.
The Patriots Foundation will once again be looking to host a full and half marathon inside Gillette Stadium in 2019. For those who are interested in being a part of the 2019 Gillette Stadium marathon or supporting the Patriots Foundation's efforts to combat homelessness, visit www.patriots.com/community.