Bears wide receiver Devin Aromashodu remembers the
first football player he ever met. It was the late 1980s in Miami,
and Dan Marino, in the midst of a Hall-of-Fame career with the
Dolphins, was a god on the gridiron.
"It made me want to play football, and I realized it was
important to stay on the right track if I wanted to get there,"
So he told himself-and anyone else who would listen-that
when he made it to the pros, he'd pass along the message. The
24-year-old made good on that promise this fall when he teamed up
with the Chicago Housing Authority to take 25 kids shopping for
The kids were at the top of their class in CHA's Learn
& Earn summer program. Each received a $200 Target gift
card-and the chance to spend it alongside Aromashodu at the South
"I always knew once I made it, I wanted to give back to my
community," he says.
That community has changed through the years-Aromashodu
has played for five teams in his four years in the NFL-but he's
built a home in Chicago, which signed him in December 2008. "I'm
here in Chicago and things have been going well ... so it was time
to do something," he says.
Aromashodu contacted the public housing agency last
summer, a summer that saw a disturbing spike in youth violence. He
wanted to highlight kids who were thriving despite the turbulence,
says Haleemah Nash, CHA's youth programming director, who called
the gesture "an incredible leadership move."
"These kids walked away with not just a photograph and a
story to tell their friends, but with the feeling that someone they
look up to believes in them," she says.
Aromashodu knows a lot of kids are watching him on Sundays
and says he hopes to inspire them on Monday mornings,
"I hope it helps them continue to work hard in school, and
lets them know that they'll be rewarded for doing good
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