Long Beach, CA
Star football player Willie McGinest paid a visit to a Long Beach Boys & Girls Club last week and was so impressed by what he saw that he decided he wanted to do something a little extra for the kids.
That little extra turned out to be a whopping $50,000 check that McGinest gave to Don Rodriguez, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Long Beach, this week at the John and Alice Wallace Petrolane Center, on Lemon Avenue.
McGinest said the donation is coming from him and three of his friends, all former Poly High Jackrabbits like himself and now playing in the NFL: Marcedes Lewis, who is with the Green Bay Packers; DeSean Jackson with the Philadelphia Eagles and Jayon Brown with the Tennessee Titans.
“I reached out to each of them to help the Boys & Girls Clubs, and nobody hesitated,” McGinest said to a group of supporters and youngsters gathered in the gym at the Petrolane Center. “They all wanted to make a difference for these kids.” McGinest said he also has reached out to the NFL for a donation and expects the NFL to help but didn’t know the exact amount yet of its contribution.
The donations from McGinest and his friends came at the end of the Press-Telegram’s Let’s Play Ball drive asking readers to donate sports balls and other athletic equipment to benefit kids at the Boys & Girls Clubs in Long Beach. A final report on the number of balls and money donated will be in the Press-Telegram this weekend.
McGinest said he was especially impressed with how the Boys & Girls Clubs are helping kids during the pandemic with academic and athletic programs, including meals. “I was touched by all that the Boys & Girls clubs are doing, especially during this pandemic,” he said. “Long Beach is my city, and these kids need to know how great the city is and how the community is helping them.”
McGinest, who was 8 years old when he joined the Boys & Girls Club, said he learned teamwork at the club that helped him through championship seasons at Poly High, USC and the New England Patriots, where he won three Super Bowls. In 2006, he was inducted into the National Boys & Girls Clubs’ Alumni Hall of Fame.
McGinest also introduced the group at the Petrolane club to Yvonne Withers, mother of Marcedes Lewis, who grew up at that Boys & Girls Club spot.
“My son loved the Boys & Girls Club,” Withers said Tuesday, Dec. 22. “It kept him out of trouble. He was happy to give back and help out.”
Jason Brown, who grew up with McGinest and is the father of NFLer, Jayon Brown, said his son was happy to help out also.
“The Boys & Girls Clubs are doing a great job for kids.,” the father said. “I appreciate what they are doing.”
“It seems like this all in the family,” McGinest said to applause.
Gayle Jackson, mother of DeSean Jackson, of the Philadelphia Eagles‘, and President, of the DeSean Jackson Foundation, who also oversees her son’s vested in the Cali Bears Youth Football & Cheerleaders, which is based on Long Beach, extended DeSean’s sincere apology for not being able to attend the event due to his team obligations in Philadelphia; and, also wanted to applaud and thank Willie McGinest for reaching out to DeSean. “Long Beach and the kids in Long Beach will always have a special place in DeSean’s heart”, states Mrs. Jackson, “when Sunday Night Football comes on and the players are profiled in the starting line-up and proudly state their college, DeSean always says “Long Beach Poly Tech” versus the University of California, Berkley where he had a stellar collegiate career.
Also present at the event were Daysha Austin, president of the Long Beach Patriots, a youth football organization started by McGinest, with her husband, Long Beach Councilman, Al Austin; newly elected Long Beach school board member, Eric Miller; and Chork Nim, chief of staff representing newly elected Long Beach Councilwoman, Suely Saro.
“This is an exciting day for us and the kids,” Rodriguez said. “It’s great to see an alumni like Willie and his friends giving back this way.”
The crowd, smaller than usual because of the pandemic, still had plenty to cheer about and gave McGinest and his friends a rousing ovation.
Reposted with permission by: Joie Adams, DeSean Jackson Foundation.