FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Oct. 6, 2020) – Ten 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, alumni, cheerleaders and fans have donated hundreds of thousands of hours to giving back to their New England communities.
Throughout the 2020 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.
"This has been a challenging year, unlike anything we've experienced in our lifetimes," said Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. "Charitable organizations have been called upon to support more children and families than ever before. We admire all of the hardworking volunteers that have stepped up and helped these nonprofits to continue to serve those in need. Through this Celebrate Volunteerism initiative, we will shine a light on some of these outstanding volunteers, make a donation to their respective charity and encourage our fans to get involved."
Heidi Holland from Middletown, R.I. was selected as a 2020 Patriots Difference Maker of the Week for her commitment to the S.E.A.L. Foundation in Lakeville, Mass. As part of this recognition, the New England Patriots Foundation will be making a $5,000 donation to the nonprofit organization.
The mission of the Specialized Education for All Learners (S.E.A.L.) Foundation is to create and fund educational and social opportunities in non-public school and camp settings for students who learn differently in order to ensure they maximize their potential. As the chairperson of the board of advisors, Heidi works closely with the founder, executive director and other board members to carry out the nonprofits mission, implement fundraising programs and strategies and introduce new schools in New England to the services they provide.
'I would like to thank the Kraft family and the New England Patriots for honoring me with the distinction of being recognized as a Patriots Difference Maker of the Week," said Heidi. "While I am humbled by this recognition, I truly believe the unsung difference makers are those individuals who see a need and respond by creating a foundation/organization that works tirelessly to address the needs they have identified. The S.E.A.L. Foundation is one such organization that is doing the real work by engaging people like me to help carry out its mission and affect change."
As a highly talented and motivated individual with dyslexia, Heidi has used her personal challenges with a learning difference to create awareness and greater opportunities for others who may also learn differently. She works with S.E.A.L. Foundation staff, introducing them to schools who could benenfit from simulations that allow teachers to experience what it's like to have a learning difference. Heidi works closely with parents, ensuring their children have the resources they need to reach their full potential.
Heidi works with coaches, helping them to understand the best way to communicate and instruct children with different learning abilities on and off the field. She also educates parents on the certain behaviors of students with learning differences to dispel myths and stereotypes of certain diagnoses in an effort to ensure full inclusion in all social, emotional and educational opportunities.
"The emotional and psychological impact of undiagnosed and unsupported learning differences can be both debilitating and devastating," said Heidi. "The S.E.A.L. Foundation is doing remarkable work to support students and their families, giving them the tools to be successful and greet each day with a sense of accomplishment."
In addition to her community service at the S.E.A.L. Foundation, Heidi has volunteered for addiction and recovery organizations, coached local lacrosse teams, been an active member of parent-teacher organizations, given her time to the Rhode Island School of Design Museum and advocated and fundraised for the National Brain Tumor Society.
"While it is affirming to know that what I have done is helpful," Heidi continued, "it is perhaps more rewarding to know that through this recognition, the Patriots organization is sharing the important work of the S.E.A.L. Foundation with so many others. With the proper support, we can all help children who learn differently."
The Kraft family and the New England Patriots Foundation encourage fans to show their support for local charitable organizations and to nominate a volunteer for the Patriots Difference Maker of the Week Award. To get involved, visit www.patriots.com/community.