FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Nov. 12, 2021) – Throughout the 2021 season, the Kraft family and the New England Patriots Foundation will recognize 17 local volunteers with the "Patriots Difference Maker of the Week Award." The honorees will be celebrated for going above and beyond to support nonprofit organizations in our New England communities.
As part of this recognition, the foundation will present a $5,000 donation to the nonprofit organization represented by each honoree. The Patriots Difference Makers will participate in a special year-end celebration and receive a pair of tickets to attend the Patriots final regular season home game on Jan. 2 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"We are excited to once again recognize local volunteers with our Patriots Difference Maker of the Week Award," said Josh Kraft, president, New England Patriots Foundation. "Each of these honorees has their own unique story of community service and we are proud to shine a light on the tremendous work they are doing. We would like to thank all of this year's Patriots Difference Makers for helping to build stronger New England communities."
William "Bill" Buckley from Bangor, Maine was selected as a 2021 Patriots Difference Maker of the Week for his commitment to the Challenger Learning Center of Maine. As part of this recognition, the Kraft family and the New England Patriots Foundation will be making a $5,000 donation to support the nonprofit.
In 1986, the crew of NASA's Challenger shuttle died tragically when a booster engine failed, causing the shuttle to break apart just 73 seconds after launch. In the aftermath of the Challenger accident, the crew's families came together, firmly committed to the belief that they must carry on the spirit of their loved ones by continuing the Challenger crew's educational mission.
Their efforts resulted in the creation of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education and its global network of Challenger Learning Centers use space-themed simulated learning and role-playing strategies to help students bring their classroom studies to life and cultivate skills needed for future success.
Bill proudly served in the Maine National Guard and has a longstanding commitment to serving the community. In 2000, he rallied community members to create the Challenger Learning Center of Maine. After lots of hard work, the Challenger Learning Center of Maine open its doors for its first space mission for Maine students March of 2004.
The center engages students and teachers in dynamic, hands-on exploration and discovery opportunities that strengthen knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), inspire students to pursue careers in these fields, and provide an outlet to learn and apply important life skills.
"We need to inspire more interest in STEM related careers and the Challenger Learning Center experience of flying simulated missions does that for all Maine school children who attend," said Bill. "Maine is a rural state and there are not many programs and experiences like this available for Maine children, but Challenger has inspired thousands of school age children each year for more than 17 years."
Twenty years later, Bill still volunteers tirelessly as the board president. He has seen the nonprofit through tremendous growth, helping to create a STEM center for students all across the state. Thanks to his leadership, the center now serves up to 6,000 students each year.
"The most moving experience," Bill continued, "is seeing school buses arrive at our center filled with children who are excited to learn about flying a simulated mission as a team and being exposed to future career choices."
The Patriots Difference Maker of the Week Award is part of the foundation's Celebrate Volunteerism initiative, designed to educate fans about the need for volunteering, highlight deserving volunteers from across the region and inspire Patriots fans to become lifelong volunteers.
This marks the 11th season that the Kraft family and the Patriots Foundation has presented their Patriots Difference Maker of the Week Award to volunteers from all across New England. Since its inception, 150 individuals have received this award and more than $675,000 has been donated to local nonprofit organizations.
To learn more about the program or to nominate a volunteer for the Patriots Difference Maker of the Week Award, visit www.patriots.com/community.