FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Dec. 13, 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."
Ciara Haines from New London, Conn. was selected as a 2019 Patriots Difference Maker of the Week for her commitment to FRIENDS WAY in Warwick, R.I.
FRIENDS WAY (Families Reaching Into Each New Day) is the only family bereavement center in Rhode Island and it serves families throughout southeastern New England. It offers open-ended groups for children ages three to 18 and their families following the death of a significant person in their lives. Staffed with highly qualified mental health care professionals and extensively trained community volunteers, the nonprofit provides peer support to children and their families in a safe and nurturing environment.
Ciara was introduced to FRIENDS WAY 20 years ago after her father passed away. She was only five years old at the time and her family enrolled in the nonprofit's peer-based support group program. Upon completing the program, Ciara and her mom stayed involved with the nonprofit, always looking for ways to support other families.
Four years ago, Ciara completed the FRIENDS WAY training program and began facilitating the peer-based grief support groups for high school students. Every other Wednesday she would spend four hours co-facilitating a session, getting to know the families and offering her support.
"FRIENDS WAY was so incredibly helpful to me during a time when I never thought my world could be happy again," said Ciara. "I knew as soon as I was old enough that I wanted to give back and help kids like me see that life can go on after loss, and it can be rewarding."
Ciara now facilitates a support group for children ages seven to 10. She has demonstrated strong leadership skills, while balancing discipline and compassion. She has also taken the lead on the expressive art activities and has developed a great rapport with all of the children. Ciara has also supported the nonprofit's fundraising efforts, helping to secure financial and in-kind contributions. She attends FRIENDS WAY's three day summer camp, taking on a leadership role to ensure that the participants have a memorable and supportive experience.
She is able to relate to what all of the children are going through and is helping to change the trajectory of their lives. Ciara creates a safe environment for the children to be able to express themselves and provides them with comfort and support. She is a role model for many of the participants and many of the teens now aspire to be a volunteer just like Ciara.
"My volunteer work has become my greatest passion in life," said Ciara. "There is nothing better than seeing the kids grow and help each other through their grief. I am so grateful to be a part of such an amazing organization."
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.