Amid preparations for the game of his lifetime, defensive end Robert Ayers returns to the inner city Catholic school of his youth to give back.
It’s the week of Super Bowl XLVIII, and every sports analyst is wondering what the climate has in store for the big game Sunday between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. The event is being hosted in East Rutherford, New Jersey at MetLife Stadium, which is open to the harsh winter elements. But it won't just be the stadium's groundskeepers looking for signs of bad weather – indeed, all eyes should be on the forecast, for good weather will favor the Broncos’ passing game, but poor weather will favor the Seahawks’ running attack. One thing is certain though: thanks to the efforts of the Broncos’ defensive line and the generous efforts of the Knights of Columbus, plenty of children will be kept warm no matter what weather is in store for Super Bowl Sunday.
Denver Broncos defensive end Robert Ayers has returned to New York for the Super Bowl, but he's not just there for the big game – he's also returned to his childhood home. Just across town from where Super Bowl XLVIII is scheduled to kick off is the inner-city grade school Ayers attended: Sacred Heart Catholic School in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Sacred Heart School has just celebrated its centennial of educating children in a faith-based environment. The school’s teachers are at the service of some of the neediest children in this part of Jersey City. Sacred Heart School is administrated by the Sisters of Charity, which were founded by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
In this, the week Ayers and his teammates have played their whole lives hoping to see, he and his fellow defensive linemen are not only doing everything they need to in practice to get ready for the big game – they also took the time this past Wednesday to practice a corporal work of mercy.
Ayers went back to his childhood hometown with other members of his defensive line to give back to some 200 children gathered at the Catholic elementary school he attended from kindergarten through 8th grade. With Broncos Head Coach Jack del Rio and his wife, Linda, retired baseball all-star Mike Piazza and Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, together with other Knights of Columbus, Ayers and his teammates distributed coats to children in need from around the Jersey City community during this storm season as part of the Knights of Columbus' charitable effort, the Coats for Kids Program. Also helping out were Ray McKenna, president of Catholic Athletes for Christ and students from Varsity Catholic at Seton Hall University.
The academic environment provided by Sacred Heart Catholic School truly is a blessing for its students, reporting that all of their students continue to high school and many continue to college from an inner-city neighborhood in which just over half of public school students complete high school. The school was an opportunity for Ayers, and now with a career-high 5.5 sacks and 29 tackles this season, he has been establishing himself as a cornerstone in the Broncos’ defensive game plan. To come back here to his childhood town is an offering of hope for children in difficult circumstances that they, too, have the opportunities they need to one day accomplish their dreams.
The Coats for Kids Program was started by the Knights of Columbus in 2009 to provide winter coats to less fortunate children in harsh winter climates. In addition to the approximately 200 children served Wednesday, since its inception, the Knights have outfitted more than 150,000 children with the winter coats they need to stay warm. You can help support the Knights in their efforts here.
Sacred Heart Catholic School continues its 100 year tradition of providing education in a faith-based environment to inner-city youth, giving them the opportunity to start out on solid academic footing. You can sponsor a deserving student or contribute to the school's ongoing needs by visiting the school’s website.
D. V. Andrews received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from St. Mary's College of California in 2008. His B.A. in English Literature is from Washington University in St. Louis.