FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Oct. 17, 2019) - Nine years ago, the Kraft family and the New England Patriots Foundation introduced a season-long theme called Celebrate Volunteerism. The main focus of the initiative was to recognize community volunteers and to promote the importance of volunteering.
Since its inception, New England Patriots players, coaches and alumni have donated tens of thousands of hours to giving back to their New England communities. During their weekly off day, Patriots players volunteer throughout New England to support children and families in need. Patriots season ticket members have also teamed with Patriots players to better their communities.
Throughout the 2019 season, the foundation will continue its Celebrate Volunteerism initiative by teaming with nonprofit organizations to educate fans about the need for volunteering, highlighting deserving volunteers from across the region and seeking to inspire Patriots fans to become lifelong volunteers. The foundation will present a weekly "Patriots Difference Maker of the Week" award, which recognizes deserving volunteers who go above and beyond to support their New England communities.
"Volunteerism is at the heart of giving back and bettering our communities," said Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. "We will continue to honor and thank the many deserving volunteers in our region that are often not recognized for their valuable contributions. Through this Celebrate Volunteerism initiative, we hope to inspire Patriots fans to make a difference and become lifelong volunteers."
Brent Mullen and Keith Nguyen were selected as 2019 Patriots Difference Makers of the Week for their commitment to the New England Center and Home for Veterans.
Brent and Keith are senior dental students at the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. They both served in the United States Army and are veterans of the War in Iraq. They are co-presidents of the Tufts Dental Health Professional Scholarship club military club and both plan on returning to the army as dentists following their 2020 graduation.
Brent is originally from Evansville, Indiana and Keith is from Denton, Texas. Upon arriving in Boston in the fall of 2016, Brent and Keith started volunteering at the New England Center and Home for Veterans where they serve meals to veterans. Together, they decided to combine their education with their interest in serving veterans and created the Service with a Smile project. The goal of the project is to connect all homeless veterans to a dental home for comprehensive oral health care.
Twice a month, they provide oral health services to homeless veterans. Services include oral cancer screenings, oral health education and referral services. Brent and Keith also provide veterans with oral hygiene supplies and have gotten their classmates and faculty involved in the project. They advocate for the health of homeless veterans while providing access to exams, cleanings, new dentures and cavity fillings.
"I am very grateful for this award from the New England Patriots," said Brent. "Service with a Smile's mission is to improve the oral health of our veterans. The program is in the beginning phases of what we hope to accomplish to help veterans achieve healthier and happier smiles."
Brent and Keith have also participated in the Boston Marathon Ruck March over the past two years. The event takes place the day before the Boston Marathon and participants travel 26.2 miles while carrying at least 15 pounds worth of weight to honor fallen soldiers. Brent and Keith organized a team and decided to carry bags of rice, beans and other items that could be donated to the New England Center and Home for Veterans. Over the past two years, their team has donated 1,750 pounds of food to the nonprofit, while raising nearly $40,000 to help veterans and their families in times of need.
"I wanted to give back to the community that gave me so much," said Keith. "When you're a veteran, you consider every veteran as family. It makes me extremely proud to continually serve my country and my fellow servicemen and women."
"Although both Brent and Keith have honorably served their country in a war zone, they continue to make a difference by honoring and serving our veterans," said Dr. Charles Rankin, a faculty advisor at Tufts University and a retired Air Force endodontist. "They show a tremendous amount of pride and satisfaction in organizing local activities including Service with a Smile, the Boston Marathon Ruck March and collection drives for soldiers serving overseas."
Fifteen individuals will be named Patriots Difference Makers throughout the season. The outstanding volunteers will be recognized on the Patriots website and will be honored during a special ceremony at the Patriots final regular season home game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, December 29.
Fans are encouraged to nominate a local volunteer for the Patriots Difference Maker of the Week award by visiting www.patriots.com/community.