FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Sept. 25, 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."
José Valenzuela from Boston, Mass. was selected as a 2019 Patriots Difference Makers of the Week for his commitment to Boston Youth Wrestling.
As a young boy of color growing up in Boston, José experienced low self-esteem, was underachieving in school and found himself heading down the wrong path. Then he discovered wrestling, which provided him with confidence, guidance and mentorship. Now, as a Boston Public Schools teacher, José shares his passion for wrestling with Boston-area youth.
In 2012, he founded Boston Youth Wrestling to help teach youth to successfully overcome socio-economic challenges that lead to educational gaps, poor health and negative community relationships. These challenges also impart skills such as self-reliance, discipline and commitment to others that apply both on and off the mat, in school and beyond.
José dedicates every spare moment to Boston Youth Wrestling and thanks to his leadership, this program has grown tremendously. Since its inception, he has positively engaged 3,500 youth as a coach, mentor and president for the organization.
"I am deeply humbled by the honor from the New England Patriots as they Celebrate Volunteerism this season," said José. "Over the last 7 years, Boston Youth Wrestling has grown into such an important part of my life and I can honestly say that the staff, the coaches, the student-athletes and the parents have become another family for me."
More than 500 youth from Boston, Chelsea and Lynn are currently enrolled in 17 different Boston Youth Wrestling program sites throughout the school year. The programs serve a wide range of students, teaching them confidence, self-control and sportsmanship, while also providing them with a positive outlook on health and fitness.
José has implemented a variety of youth development programs that have shown a significant impact both on and off the mat. The Evolve program at Boston Youth Wrestling offers a 12-17 week curriculum that combines wrestling with academic skill development and college and career exploration. Amongst Boston Youth Wrestling participants, there has been an 80 percent increase in graduation rates and a 75 percent decrease in dropout rates.
"I have dedicated countless hours to Boston Youth Wrestling because I believe in its mission to use wrestling as a tool and motivator to help kids overcome socio-economic challenges in their lives," said José. "The sport of wrestling has given me so much and I feel honored to use this opportunity to give back to my community."
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.