The 49ers wide receiver opened his fourth reading center at a Baltimore elementary school. Photos by Nicolas China, Pixilated.
As the countdown to San Francisco 49ers training camp is nearly under a week's time, wide receiver Torrey Smith is using the final moments of his offseason to serve those in need.
On Thursday, the Torrey Smith Foundation launched "Torrey's Reading Oasis" at Moravia Park Elementary in Baltimore. The school is just over 10 miles from Smith's old home field at M&T Bank Stadium where the Baltimore Ravens play.
This marks Torrey's fourth reading oasis in Baltimore, and will service 344 students at Moravia Park Elementary. It provides them access to over 1,200 age-appropriate books, electronic readers and a comfortable and safe place to read.
Volunteers from the community were on hand all week to transform the room: painting, putting together the cabinets, adding the books and organizing the room. Smith was on site Thursday morning for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and spent some time with the students who were experiencing the reading oasis for the first time.
"It was awesome," Smith said. "It's always a brighter room so it gets their attention. They love it. They have some games in there to play as well. It's just another peaceful place to have in the school."
It's not hard to find a school in need in the Baltimore area. Even though the receiver has been able to help four elementary schools, there will always be work to be done.
"Literally every public school, 84 percent of the students have reduced or free lunch," Smith said. "Schools also get different amounts of funding. You go to some schools and they're in great shape, but you go to others and there isn't air conditioning or computers."
That's not all the receiver has planned before flying back to the West Coast next Tuesday for camp. The Torrey Smith Foundation will also host a free camp at his former high school, Stafford High (Falmouth, VA.) this Saturday and a Back to School Fun Fest at Gardenville Elementary School on Monday, July 27.
The camp is no ordinary football clinic. Torrey's wife Chanel, who is Smith's co-pilot on each altruistic venture, had an idea for the camp to include as many kids as possible. The fitness camp, as Torrey called it, will feature three separate stations with different sports as well as a classroom station where the kids will try to build towers out of marshmallows and spaghetti.
Most importantly to Smith, the camp will be open to both boys and girls.
"It's more about having fun than actual instruction," Smith said. "Chanel is a teacher, and she wanted to figure out a way to incorporate different things. I didn't want it to look like I was only trying to cater to the boys. I was raised by women, so I want it to be as mixed as possible."
The back-to-school event will serve 250 elementary students, with backpacks chalked full of supplies that will last the entire school year. What's more, each student's supplies are geared towards their respective grade level.
These events are in line with the mission of Smith's foundation to better the lives of children by providing educational support, opportunities and resources. More of the foundation's programs include "Torrey's Turkey Day", "Teaming Up With Torrey" and the "Tevin Jones Scholarship Fund." The Foundation will remain based in Baltimore, but Torrey said he has plans to expand to the Bay area.
Smith's fame in the NFL isn't what ignited his propensity for helping others. That pillar of the wideout's life started way back in middle school. As Smith pointed out, giving back is about far more than dollars and cents.
"It's been important to me before I even had anything to give back," Smith said. "I've been in the community since middle school, and that's even while people were helping my family. If you can give your time, that's worth as much as any dollar you can give. To me it's worth even more.
"My wife is also very involved in the community and we both know what it's like to be in those shoes. We can relate to the students and families that we're helping."
Smith has found a way to balance all of his passions in life so that one facet does not define him as a person. It also means that his participation in one endeavor doesn't detract from another.
"There's definitely a lot more to life than football, but football is also a big part of my life," Smith said. "I don't prioritize one over the other because there's time for both. I can be the best football player I can be while being the best community servant I can be."
As for football, Smith has been working out daily, particularly on his footwork as a receiver. The 49ers free-agent signee is ready to return to the Bay Area and hit the ground running when training camp begins Aug. 1.
"I'm tired of running around cones and stuff," Smith joked. "I'm ready to go play football. It feels like it's been forever. I'm glad I got to learn the playbook already so it's just about knocking the rust off the first few days of camp and being ready to go."