#FootballsforFreedom is a new initiative of The Pataki Center’s mission to support Ukraine and its fight for freedom. The initiative began with a pledge to collect and deliver to Kyiv 500 American footballs from NFL, College, and High School teams in the United States.
The initiative also includes this year’s Pataki Center Teams and Leaders Fellowship, which is inviting coaches to nominate players who are selected based upon their academic, athletic and leadership qualities. To promote the initiative and fellowship, the Footballs for Freedom Van launched last week, commencing with visits to the Baltimore Ravens, Auburn University Tigers and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
The Van will continue through the South and Midwest before returning to New York for September 11 ceremonies, after which a Pataki Center delegation will travel to Kyiv to deliver the balls to the Ministry of Youth and Sport. Since the beginning of war, The Pataki Center has been on the ground in order to know precisely the aid needed at the moment and then to deliver it-without middlemen and their associated costs. In March and again in April, when Kyiv was surrounded by Russian tanks and supply chains were severely disrupted, the Governor met with Ukrainian officials. Responding to their requests and the pain of millions of internally displaced Ukrainians, the Pataki center delivered over 100 tons of essential food, hygiene, and medical supplies as well as 40 state-of- the-art temporary housing units when they were needed most.
Since then, The Center sent additional delegations to Ukraine, one of which traveled to Kyiv and met with the Minister of Regional Development and representatives of President Zelensky’s office. We are also cooperating with the Ministry of Youth and Sport in our educational support efforts. While military support is always first and foremost on the minds of government officials at war, Ukrainian officials emphasized that housing and education are high-priority challenges. Footballs for Freedom fits in perfectly with the Pataki Center’s mission to Educate and is an opportunity for the Center to get back to its roots in its Ukraine efforts.
American Football was beginning to make strides when the war broke out, but over 60% of the players are serving in the military. The youth players who cannot serve have been left without their usual athletic outlet in ways more difficult to accommodate than in other sports. This is also an opportunity to bring comfort and normalcy to the broader Ukrainian youth through learning the game for the first time. If you or your team would like to get involved or to learn more, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org