Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Giving back off the field: It's a big deal to more than a few Broncos

By Linda Navarro Updated: January 26, 2014 at 7:26 pm 0

They're the hard-charging, hard-hitting men in orange on the football field.

Take off those helmets and pads, and most of the Denver Broncos are soft-hearted men who use their fame, wealth and success to rally support for charitable causes such as disadvantaged youth, cancer victims and people who need service dogs.

"Guys at the NFL level, we can impact people in a huge way," safety David Bruton said. "A lot of people look up to us. We're blessed to be in this position. ... It's a big deal in this locker room. We take a lot of pride in giving back to the community because of what they give to us."

Added defensive back Tony Carter: "It's not really a part of the job because it's something we enjoy. It's amazing how it makes you feel when you help somebody out."

Just as he does on the field, quarterback Peyton Manning leads the way in giving back as he pays it forward.

Last year, the PeyBack Foundation gave grants of more than $500,000 to 90 youth organizations in four states that are special to Manning and his family: Colorado, for his two seasons with the Broncos; Indiana, where he played 14 seasons with the Colts; Tennessee, where he played college football; and Louisiana, where he was raised.

The nonprofit, which was started in 1999, received a boost of $24,800 from eight businesses in Omaha, Neb., after Manning yelled "Omaha!" 31 times from the line of scrimmage during the AFC title game.

Manning is president of the foundation, his wife, Ashley, is vice president, and his father, Archie, is treasurer and secretary. The foundation's focus, according to its website, is "to promote the future success of disadvantaged youth by assisting programs that provide leadership and growth opportunities for children at risk." Examples include the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Manning, of course, isn't the only Broncos representative who stays active off the field.

John Elway

While Manning has taken the Rocky Mountain region by storm, Elway has been the face of the franchise for decades.

Now the team's executive vice president of football operations, the former quarterback has two foundations - the Elway Foundation and the Heroes Foundation - and supports a long list of charities, including the Buoniconti Fund To Cure Paralysis, Celebrity Fight Night Foundation, Kids Wish Network, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center and The Miami Project.

The first of his foundations dates to 1988. The Elway Foundation supports community efforts to stop child abuse, funding programs for treatment and prevention.

Money is raised through an annual celebrity golf classic that has brought in more than $3 million, which goes to the Kempe Children's Center and FACES, or Family Advocacy, Care, Education, Support.

The Heroes Foundation was created to provide support and funding to America's heroes and their families. "Heroes exist everywhere," the foundation website states, and the Heroes Foundation "strives to encourage American pride and assist those heroes, past and present, who contribute to improving society and defending our country's freedoms."

Zane Beadles

Thanks to talk-show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres, much of the country knows about this hefty lineman and his charity, the Parade Foundation. Viewers of her TV show, "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," also know how to pancake block. Pancake block? Let's just say he and his fellow linemen like to smoosh the defense as flat as flapjacks.

Beadles then told DeGeneres about his foundation, where the goal is to help young people in situations that are not of their making. It supports Brent's Place, a "safe-clean" facility in Aurora. It is one of the only places safe enough for the little ones whose immune systems have been compromised.

"This is not something we do for the recognition. That's not why you do it," Beadles said. "We have an opportunity to help people out, whether it's a kid or a family or anyone. I think that's an important part of our job, giving back to the community."

Von Miller

This linebacker is one stylish guy who was likely never laughed at because he wore glasses. First off, he's one big fellow. And second, he wears really cool glasses.

Von's Vision helps kids who can't afford good eye care to receive exams, glasses, contacts and Lasik surgery. Miller has said that many of these kids don't even know they need glasses, and better vision would give them a better chance academically.

Karl Mecklenburg

The retired linebacker and his wife, Kathi, created the REACH Foundation in 2006. The idea behind the foundation is to help kids read. REACH for a Book provides incentives for elementary school students in Denver Public Schools, who are challenged to read 100 minutes each week.

Eric Decker

Those GQ newlyweds, Eric Decker and Jessie James, throw a major release party each year for a new Napa Valley wine, with the proceeds going to Deckers Dogs. The couple started the organization to support the training of Freedom Service Dogs.

Operation Freedom helps returning veterans with disabilities in their transition from active duty to civilian life. Rescue dogs are trained for each veteran's needs.

Decker and fellow wide receiver Demaryius Thomas also have supported Judi's House, former quarterback Brian Griese's project named for his late mother. Judi's House offers a private place for children and families who are dealing with grief.

Pat Bowlen

The team's owner is head of the board of the Denver Broncos Charities, which has donated more than $25 million in the Denver area since 1993. Bowlen has been named Denver's Man of the Year for DBC's work. Its focus is set out as supporting "nonprofit organizations that work to impact the quality of life for youth, and the hungry and homeless," and it is designed to "assist young people in the areas of education and youth football with a particular emphasis on programs aimed at disadvantaged and at-risk youth."

Wes Welker

Athletic camps and grants are the staples of the Wes Welker Foundation, which helps thousands of at-risk kids in his hometown of Oklahoma City.

"Research shows that kids who play sports are more likely to graduate, more likely to stay out of trouble and more likely to be productive citizens," Welker says on the foundation's website. "Yet with all the research showing the positive impact of physical activity on youth, the physical education programs in many of our schools continue to decline or are simply not funded at all."

Wesley Woodyard

His Kentucky Wildcat and Denver Bronco histories are his heart with 16Ways Foundation. Woodyard runs football camps for kids, but his heavy-duty campaign tackles bullying. Come Christmas, he teams with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock for a toy drive of major proportions.

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Denver sports columnist Paul Klee contributed to this story

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