For the first time ever, we’re involving a member of the local professional sports community.
Since I assumed my on-air duties at WNST in 2002, one of the things I’ve always believed in is the need for athletes who make their living here in Baltimore to something that enriches the lives of the people in the community who essentially pay their salary. I don’t necessarily question an athlete when they pack up and leave at the end of the season if, for example, their home is in Florida or California or Texas. But at some point during their 6-8 months here — employed in Baltimore and playing for a team here — I believe strongly they should be “giving back” to the community.
Very few athletes in Baltimore over the last four years have done more for OUR community with their time, money and effort than Ravens center Matt Birk.
It’s that simple, really.
And that’s why Matt Birk’s H.I.K.E. Foundation will receive the proceeds from next Tuesday’s annual WNST Charity Golf Outing.
You can check out Matt’s Foundation RIGHT HERE. I would suggest you take five minutes right now to click on that link and see what Birk is doing for boys and girls in Baltimore.
I think it’s especially important to realize that Matt started this Foundation in 2002 while he played for the Vikings. Upon signing in Baltimore, it would have been easy for Birk to say, “I’m a Minnesota guy. I started this Foundation to help the kids in Minnesota. I’ll just leave it here and get back to it when I retire and return to Minnesota.” Instead, he packed up his wife, kids AND the Foundation and moved them all to Baltimore. And since 2009, Birk has turned his H.I.K.E. Foundation into an organization that helps BALTIMORE.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Matt Birk is doing great work in the Baltimore community. Last year, he was honored as the NFL’s “Walter Payton Man of the Year” at the Super Bowl in Indianapolis. It’s the top “off-field” honor any NFL player can receive and Birk was officially recognized for the great work he’s done over his career in Minnesota and Baltimore.
Our annual event is a modest one. We won’t be handing Matt a $50,000 or $100,000 check next Tuesday. And he knows that. But when I first asked him if he would allow us to honor him by donating the proceeds from our “little outing” to his Foundation, he didn’t hesitate or ask “how much will you raise?”. He said, “Absolutely. Just tell me what you need me to do to help.”
So, about 80 friends and supporters of WNST and sports in Baltimore will gather next Tuesday at Pine Ridge for an afternoon of fun, friendship and golf.
And everyone will get to meet Matt Birk and thank him for making our community better.
That’s a helluva day if you ask me.
(Additionally: Most of you may or may not be aware that earlier this week, Matt Birk was involved in a statement regarding gay marriage in his home state of Minnesota. More than one person emailed me to ask if “you’re going to still give Birk money” or “how proud are you to be giving money to that guy?”. Let me address that, because it is relevant and in today’s society, dodging a question or an issue is easy to do. I won’t dodge it at all. Matt Birk plays football in Baltimore. He has a Foundation that contributes educational benefits to at-risk children. I’m proud of Matt Birk’s dedication to this community — as someone who was born and raised in Baltimore and has lived here my whole life. Our sports community needs MORE athletes like Matt Birk. As for his views on gay marriage, I see no way at all that those impact the charity golf outing next Tuesday or the money we’re donating to his charity. If anyone playing in the charity would rather NOT participate, they can contact me for a full refund. But Matt Birk’s personal views are in no way a consideration to me. I might actually agree with his views on gay marriage. Then again, I might be completely opposed to them. That remains my business. Just like it remains his. I believe very strongly that the Philadelphia Flyers should be kicked out of the NHL. If you don’t agree, we can still be friends. And if you don’t agree with Matt Birk’s stance on gay marriage, we can still admire and appreciate and support the work he’s done for children in Baltimore and Maryland. I know I can, anyway, no matter what my own personal stance might be on the issue.)
If you have ten minutes today, “google search” Matt Birk and see how many articles and media stories you see about the work he does “in the community”, whether it’s here or in Minneapolis.
This is a man who doesn’t just talk the talk. He walks the walk. He’s in our community. Working hard. Making it better.
I look forward to another great day next Tuesday. Pray for that great Fall weather we had in Baltimore over the last few weeks…
Thanks for reading.