United Way of Greater Cleveland partnered with the Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Metropolitan School District and University Hospitals for the annual Hometown Huddle. The Day of Action took place Tuesday, October 18, at Luis Munoz Marin School and provided pre-k students there with a new playground, as well as beautifying the existing structures.
Hometown Huddle is a national event where United Ways across the country partner with their local NFL teams on community service projects. In its 18th year, the national Day of Action promotes collaborations between these organizations, working to address youth health and wellness by building “fitness zones” and hosting football clinics.
More than 100 volunteers attended this Huddle, including 30 volunteers from United Way, 50 from UH, 12 from SunBelt, and numerous staff and players from the Cleveland Browns. Some volunteers started Monday, October 17, working to lay the foundation for Tuesday’s projects.
The day-of, Cleveland Browns’ Andrew Hawkins, Xavier Cooper, Randall Telfer and others made guest appearances, helping staff and volunteers raise a new play space from the ground up.
“We’re building a playground for the kids to promote being active at least 60 minutes a day,” said Andrew Hawkins, Cleveland Browns wide receiver. “It’s cool to be a part of this, it’s cool to be down here, with the players and the kids, being able to see the Cleveland Browns out here devoting time and showing how important it is for the Hometown Huddle and Play 60.”
University Hospitals used the volunteer opportunity to further their staff’s goal toward 150,000 hours of community service to celebrate the care provider’s 150th anniversary and strengthen its relationships throughout Greater Cleveland.
“The UH story began on May 14, 1866. Our institution and our community have seen a lot together since,” said Thomas F. Zenty III, CEO of UH. “Throughout this milestone anniversary year, University Hospitals will commemorate our 150th anniversary with events and investments that reflect and deepen our community ties, inspire our employees and look ahead to a bright future together. UH’s heritage as a civic beacon of hope and healing is a source of pride for all of us.”
Luis Munoz Marin is a Cleveland Metropolitan School District school participating in United Way’s Community Wraparound strategy, which places a community partner-funded site coordinator in 25 schools. This site coordinator helps low-income students combat social and emotional obstacles affecting academic performance, including housing and food instability.
Located in Cleveland’s Clark-Fulton neighborhood, the school offers dual language programming in English and Spanish. The school’s population is 69 percent Hispanic, with 52 percent of students having limited English proficiency.
Marin was selected for this year’s Hometown Huddle because it recently added a Pre-K program, but didn’t have playground equipment for the younger children, such as a jungle gym and rock climbing wall, to aid in large-muscle development. The playground is also ADA-compliant, with transfer stations with steps and handholds, helping children go between equipment with ease.
Volunteers worked from 8 a.m. until late in the afternoon Tuesday, assembling equipment, refurbishing existing structures and resurfacing the school’s outdoor basketball court.
As Browns players Cooper and Telfer cut the orange ribbon, officially opening the space, students from the school’s Boys and Girls Club afterschool program ran to the area, testing out the equipment in the summer-like sun.
Hometown Huddle was made possible through donations and support from several community partners, including the Cleveland Browns, University Hospitals, Republic Services, Sunbelt Rentals, Zenith Systems, Giant Eagle, Arby’s and Meyer Design.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities, please contact Shenise Johnson-Thomas, United Way’s Engagement Center director, at email@example.com.