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Ravens center Matt Birk and running back Ray Rice are among 12 NFL players who will be cited at the NFL Players Gala in Washington on Wednesday, April 14, for their contributions to community and youth.

For the seventh straight year, the NFLPA and NFL Players, its licensing and marketing branch, have joined James Brown of CBS Sports' "The Today Show" to recognize players for their community commitment with JB Awards. The dinner will benefit Special Olympics DC.

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While with the Vikings, Birk established the Matt Birk H.I.K.E. Foundation -- named for hope, inspiration, knowledge and education -- in 2002 to provide at-risk children with the educational opportunities needed to excel in school and life. The foundation will launch the "Ready, Set, Read!" program this fall and will focus on encouraging more than 50,000 elementary school students to read at home.

Birk, a 12-year veteran, is one of seven finalists for the Byron "Whizzer" White Award, the NFLPA's highest honor. Madieu Williams of Maryland and the Vikings is also a finalist with Nnamdi Asomugha, Danny Clark, Mike Furrey, Marlin Jackson and Bradie James.

Rice, a two-year vet, has worked in his hometown of New Rochelle, N.Y., and in the Baltimore community since joining the Ravens. He regularly volunteers to tutor special education children at the Henry Barnard School in New Rochelle, where his mother teaches. He's also been a summer camp counselor for the parks and recreation department.

In Baltimore, Rice participated in the 4th Annual Holiday Helpers shopping event as a personal shopper for 55 youth. He also helped distribute food items to families in need at Owen Brown Inter-Faith Center in Columbia, and served Thanksgiving dinner to men at the Helping Up Mission homeless shelter in Baltimore in 2008.

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