Volunteers loaded a school bus with turkeys and other food items during the Ed Reed Foundation Turkey Day. (Peter Schmuck/Baltimore Sun video)
Former Ravens star Ed Reed is nearly four years removed from a terrific career as one of the greatest safeties in the history of the NFL, but he’s still covering a lot of ground.
He’s supporting several schools in the Baltimore area, putting on football camps for underprivileged kids in his hometown in Louisiana and partnering with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation to build a park in the New Orleans area.
And this is a particularly busy time, because Thanksgiving approaches and the Ed Reed Foundation’s annual food box campaign is in high gear.
He was at the SEED School of Maryland on Friday, helping distribute turkeys and all the fixings to all 400 students. With the support of United Way of Central Maryland, ShopRite and private donors, his foundation also distributes food at Booker T. Washington Middle School and the Loving Arms youth shelter.
I think it speaks volumes to the Baltimore community that you have a player like Ed Reed, who is no longer playing for the Ravens but continues to give back.
Katie del Carmen Byram, SEED School of Maryland's director of development
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It’s obvious from his personal interaction with the students that this is not just about writing checks. Over the course of Friday afternoon – during which volunteers packed and stacked boxes, and organize the giveaway — Reed also climbed aboard every school bus to interact with the kids as each bus is also loaded with food.
“It’s awesome, because a lot of them you don’t get to see,” Reed said. “Sometimes some of them come to school and probably never bump into you. You might be here, but never see them. So just to get on the buses and tell them, ‘Happy Thanksgiving,’ and spend two seconds with them — I feel that’s a lot but it’s a little. And for me – how I became the person I am – it was the little things that mattered.”
Maybe they matter more at this difficult juncture in Baltimore’s history, when violence is out of control and solutions to the major problems that beset low-income neighborhoods in the city seem elusive. Reed, 39, said he thinks it’s important to show people care.
“We need people trying to figure out how to be part of the solution … how to fix the problems,” he said. “I think it starts with our kids. It starts with laying down a great foundation for our youth. If the youth has a good foundation, then I think they won’t grow into the bad situations they get into. We’ve got to help our community out. We’ve got to help Baltimore out, because it’s a lot of things that have been handed down in our society that we’re dealing with.”
The SEED School is clearly part of the solution. It is Maryland’s only public tuition-free boarding school and the results it has gotten during its 10 years of existence are impressive.
“Our model is working,” said Katie del Carmen Byram, the school’s director of development. “The graduation rate for all demographics in the United States — the four- to six-year college graduation rate — is 31 percent. We know when our SEED kids go to a right-fit college, which we help them find, our graduation rates are 64 percent. So we’re more than doubling the national average. Then, when you compare that to the demographic that we’re serving — which are low-income, generally first-generation college-bound students — that percentage is about 10 percent. So we’re really changing the odds for the students and their families.”
When Reed learned about the school seven years ago, he wanted to be involved. That started with a pair of fitness events at the school, featuring Reed and other Ravens stars such as Joe Flacco, Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin and others. Two years in, he started the Ed Reed Turkey Day.
“This is our seventh year doing this with Ed Reed and we feel so blessed to be a part of this day,” Byram said. “He was really the founder of this day. He does this for the SEED School. He does this for Booker T. Washington. It means a tremendous amount to our students and their families, who have a little less pressure on them for the holiday in that they have their Thanksgiving meal taken care of.
“I think it speaks volumes to the Baltimore community that you have a player like Ed Reed, who is no longer playing for the Ravens but continues to give back in big, big ways to the city.”
The same goes for his home state, where the St. Charles Parish project is gathering steam. The Ed Reed Foundation is currently attempting to raise $1 million in donations to help fund the park and has applied for a $250,000 Grassroots Grant from the NFL.
Reed doesn’t generally seek public attention, but he’s been very visible lately. He was prominent in the televised pregame buildup to the big Miami-Notre Dame college football showdown on Nov. 11 and he obviously shows up in Baltimore around this time of year for his charity events.
Though he spent last season on the Buffalo Bills coaching staff and will soon be eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he said Friday that his main focus right now is not on football.
“I’m building my foundation right now and trying to get myself in order,” Reed said. “I’m trying to get myself rejuvenated after a 12-year NFL career where the NFL is making it hard for players like myself who are retired to get themselves taken care of after football. That’s a big thing to me. I can’t understand why the NFL is doing that — why [they] don’t help us after we play. That’s mind-boggling to me.”