â€œIâ€™m a Cardinal for life,â€ said the former University of Louisville football player. â€œI always like to give back to places that have given me so much.â€
Now a defensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Okoyeâ€™s Kickoff 4 Kids Foundation has teamed up with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kentuckiana. The two organizations will formally introduce their partnership at the Kickoff 4 Kids Gala on July 13 on the Norton Healthcare Terrace and in the PNC Club at Papa Johnâ€™s Cardinal Stadium.
â€œMy parents are my heroes,â€ explained Okoye. â€œWhat I saw them do for us as kids really makes me want to do the same (for others).â€
That sentiment is nothing new. During his time at UofL, Okoye volunteered alongside his fellow teammates with numerous charity organizations, including Kosair Childrenâ€™s Hospital and the Boys and Girls Club.
After being drafted into the NFL in 2007, Okoye started the inaugural Kickoff 4 Kids, a program that not only lets children interact with the athletes they admire, but also incorporates scholastic success into the mix. One of the popular facets of Kickoff 4 Kids is Movies and Motivation, which is geared toward younger students. Participants are taken collectively to a movie and paired with an athlete for the day. A motivational speech is given before the start of the film. â€œ(Itâ€™s) a day of learning and fun by watching a movie,â€ Okoye said.
The foundation began in Houston but is now in Katy, Texas and Huntsville, Ala., as well. And, next week, it will begin in Louisville. â€œWeâ€™ve certainly helped out thousands of kids (already) and looking forward to helping out much more,â€ Okoye said.
Thus far, the Kickoff 4 Kids Foundation has granted over 44 scholarships and is home to multiple sports mentoring programs. Soon, Okoye will unveil Kickoff 4 Kids House, an online achievement program that will teach children how to succeed by allowing them to compete with their fellow students, as well as kids at other schools, in academics, sports and community service.
Thanks to a partnership with the University of Louisville, the local chapter of Kickoff 4 Kids will also offer Cards Play, an interactive program with Cardinal athletes and students that will stress the importance of physical education in schools around Louisville.
â€œKickoff 4 Kids will take away attention from the shootings in the community and help make the focus on the youth,â€ said Red Carpet Events owner Jessica Taylor, who is assisting Okoye. â€œ(The) program will change the focus not only on the West End, but also on the city as the whole.â€
Charla Young, who will emcee the gala, likes what Kickoff 4 Kids embodies.
â€œIt takes football, an adored sport, with Amobi, an amazing scholar and player, giving him the opportunity (to teach kids) so that they understand the balance of the two in a really fun way. Itâ€™s a party (and a program) with a purpose,â€ Young said.