With cooler temperatures around the corner, Redskins tight end Vernon Davis wants to bring awareness to youth homelessness. He's hosting a clothing drive on Friday in Washington to kick off Vernon's Closet, intended to "raise awareness and support for homeless and community in need."
It's the second consecutive season Davis has teamed up with Covenant House DC, a nonprofit organization aiming to provide care for homeless youth. The cause is personal for Davis, a Washington native, who knows people become homeless for a variety of reasons, including drug addiction.
"My mom was addicted to drugs," Davis said. "My relatives throughout my family were addicted to drugs. It's one of those realms where it's near to my heart because my mom could've been like that, but she wasn't. My cousin could've been like that, but he wasn't. . . . There's a lot of compassion there when it comes to that. That's why I support it. I support it strongly, and I want to encourage others to bring awareness to it."
Davis, 33, got Vernon's Closet off the ground with the help of his girlfriend, Kayla Sortor. Last year, the two participated in the Covenant House's annual sleep out, where thousands of people across 18 cities in the United States and Canada slept outside to help raise more than $6 million for homeless youth. He compared the experience to the uncertainty he felt in 2010 while traveling to Afghanistan as part of the NFL-USO program. The perspective of being a member of the armed forces overseas, or being homeless in his own home town, was difficult to grasp until Davis was in their shoes.
"What I noticed last year was that I was completely covered, and I thought I was going to be warm out there, but it wasn't enough," Davis said. "You have to have layers and layers and layers to stay warm out there, especially when it's cold and just miserable outdoors in that environment. I learned a lot."
Davis is seeking clothing, canned goods and volunteers to sign up for this year's sleep out, scheduled for Nov. 16. It's part of his attempt to continue giving back to those in need as he gets older. Entering his 12th NFL season, Davis wants to keep using his platform as a professional athlete to try to bring positive change to some of the underrepresented sections of society.
"It's unfortunate, but we can do better as individuals, and we can help," Davis said. "We can help solve the problems. We can help make them comfortable. Not only make them comfortable, but you put them in an environment where they can blossom and where they can excel."
— Master Tesfatsion, The Washington Post
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