Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara didn't have the chance to see an NFL game in person until he was playing in one. Now, as a nine-year NFL veteran, he's making sure some Chicago-area kids won't have to wait to make it pro to see a game.
Amukamara is one of seven Bears players continuing a team tradition of players donating tickets to home games to local charities through the team's "Home Team Hand-Off" program. Through the program, players have the opportunity to purchase a block of season tickets and donate them to a charity of their choice. The charity then distributes the tickets to worthy recipients.
"I think it's huge for players to be a part of their community," Amukamara said. "Anytime a player goes to a different team or goes on a team, I think you have a responsibility to impact that community somehow, so I feel like ‘Home Team Hand-Off' is a way that I could interact with the community."
In total, Bears players will donate more than 600 tickets throughout the course of the season with different players sponsoring recipient groups. Amukamara presents "The Other's Foundation," Jordan Howard presents "Howard's Huddle," Akiem Hicks presents "Akiem's Dreams," Charles Leno Jr. presents "Leno's Juniors," Kyle Long presents "Long's Legion," Danny Trevathan presents "Trevathan Nation" and Mitchell Trubisky presents "Tru's Crew."
In 1999, former Bears offensive tackle Blake Brockermeyer donated tickets to a local Chicago charity. The following season, several teammates joined in and the "Home Team Hand-Off" initiative was born. Since its conception, Bears players have donated nearly 25,000 tickets to worthy charities.
This year Amukamara will team up with the Bloc Foundation, an organization that uses boxing as a tool to empower Chicago youth.
"I do have a heart and passion for empowering and the growth of young people," Amukamara said. "That's such a particular age where you want to get your hands on them quick and make sure they have a great foundation."
Howard got involved last season when he partnered with an organization that focused on pulmonary fibrosis, the disease that took Howard's father's life when Howard was just 12 years old. Entering his fourth season, he believes it's part of his role to give back and knows how special it will be for some of the recipients to attend a game.
"I love giving back," Howard said. "I've got to take advantage of this position I'm in right now because it won't last forever. I know a lot of these guys don't have the chance or they don't have the money, so they can't go to the games, so I just want to take them to the game and teach them that they can dream."
This year designated charities include Salvation Army, Special Olympics Chicago, Special Olympics Illinois, The Bloc Foundation, Allendale Association, Lambs Farm and USO of Illinois.