Updated: December 17, 2009 at 12:00 am
ENGLEWOOD – They have a game at Denver Rescue Mission: “Beat the Champ.”
Cornerback Champ Bailey volunteers about once a month at the Denver Broncos Youth Center located at the Crossing, the mission’s transitional facility for homeless families. There are about 90 at-risk kids who take on Bailey in bowling, pool or whatever game is available. The games are competitive - for both sides.
The kids can forget about their problems for a while. And Bailey is pretty normal there, too. He has been volunteering at the Denver Rescue Mission for three years. He has become more of a mentor than a celebrity with every visit.
“They know who I am now,” said Bailey, who has won the Broncos’ Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for off-field work two years in a row. “It builds a relationship, and then I can help them because they can trust me.”
Bailey recently held his annual holiday party at the Crossing for 77 families in the transitional program. He brought along some teammates who had a holiday dinner, handed out gifts and even made gingerbread houses with the kids.
Greta Walker, the director of public relations for the Denver Rescue Mission, said Bailey has also been a part of some programs, such as “Champ’s Volunteers,” to recruit middle- and high-school students to give their time to the rescue mission. And “Champ’s Front Range Change,” which collected spare change from five local high schools for five weeks, raised $5,300. The winning school gets an assembly appearance from Bailey.
“Because of his involvement there’s much more awareness in the community of what Denver Rescue Mission does,” Walker said.
Bailey said he got involved at the mission because he was looking for one cause to focus on. He visited the Crossing and seeing the kids affected him.
“I didn’t have a lot growing up, but I had a house, I had a family around me,” Bailey said. “They don’t really have a lot of that.”
He said it still affects him when he sees new kids at the shelter. He wants to prevent it but knows that is impossible. He talks to the kids when he visits and hopes he can convince them that they can have a bright future.
“It’s just to give them that sense of a positive life,” Bailey said. “That ‘You can do this, you can have this, and these are the steps you have to take.’”