On Wednesday, February 18, 49ers left tackle Joe Staley headed up to Candlestick Park and found himself greeted on the field by a different group than normal. Usually he goes face to face with 300 pound defensive lineman, but this time, Staley was met by over 100 three to five year old elementary students from schools in the Bayview/Hunter's Point neighborhood in San Francisco.
As part of the All-Stars Helping Kids Read-Along in partnership with JumpStart, Joe Staley and Tracy Hamm, a current player for the FC Gold Pride, the Bay Area franchise of Women's Professional Soccer (WPS), teamed up to participate in fun, festivities, reading and learning activities.
When the children first arrived, they took seats in the middle of the field at Candlestick Park and began to enjoy their afternoon of readings from various speakers. Executive Director of All-Stars Helping Kids, Marlon Evans, started the afternoon by reading to the children, followed by KTVU's morning news reporter, Dave Clark, and then finally the professional sports duo of Staley and Hamm took over for the last reading of But Not the Hippopotamus.
Growing up with a children's librarian as a mother, it's not surprising literacy for children has impacted Staley's life and emphasized its importance throughout the day.
"I think it's really important to get out there and read to kids and stress the importance at an early age," said Staley. "Stress the importance of education and reading and going to school and class and set them up for good habits in the future."
Once the readings were complete, the children were given the opportunity to take part in arts and crafts and play football or soccer with Staley and Hamm.
Having the opportunity to play with professional athletes was very exciting for the youth who tried to emulate everything Staley and Hamm did with the football and soccer ball on the field.
All Stars Helping Kids Executive Director, Marlan Evans discussed Staley's participation and what it means to the children. "He did a great job. They eat it up, they get to see the 49ers on TV and to be up close and personal at the stadium is awesome."
In line with the mission for the day, hopefully the children will walk away with not only new skills for the football or soccer field, but also with the interest in picking up a book and furthering their intellectual capacity as well.
This is the second children's literacy event in the past year in which Staley has been involved. During the 2008 season, Staley, other members of the 49ers and team owner, John York, went to Dr. Charles R. Drew Elementary School in Bayview/Hunter's point to read to the kindergarteners.
All Stars Helping Kids was founded in 1989 by 49ers alumni Ronnie Lott with the belief that every child could be an All Star. What began as a passion to better the lives of at-risk kids in the San Francisco Bay Area has grown into a movement aimed at leveling the playing field for children in low-income communities nationwide. To date, All Stars Helping Kids has raised over $20 million over 20 years for disadvantaged youth.
Jumpstart is a national nonprofit organization with a mission to work toward the day every child in America enters schools prepared to succeed. In order to pursue this goal, Jumpstart recruits and trains volunteers to deliver an innovative early literacy program via yearlong one-to-one relationships with preschool children in low-income communities.