The Monday after Thanksgiving, four players from the Los Angeles Chargers (Travis Benjamin, Chris Landrum, James Onwuala and Michael Davis), gathered in the Family Center at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church to meet with the Project Hope Alliance families! This was an opportunity for each of the players to learn about their new community —the hardships some children face even here in Orange County, and the organizations like St. Andrew’s and Project Hope Alliance that partner to help them. While the event was organized with the help of Charger’s community relations’ office, it was very much a private gathering.
Sitting with families as they ate pizza, each player listened to the stories being shared and shared their own. Travis, Chris, James, and Michael signed autographs for the families, took pictures with the kids, and offered their advice and support for students in school.
Standing in front of everyone, James Onwuala, a rookie linebacker, and Notre Dame alum recalled the importance his mother placed on education, making sure he finished his work off the field before he could go on the field. James remembered learning the hard way that this rule was non-negotiable when he was sitting at home on a Sunday finishing homework while the rest of his pop warner team was playing their regular game. This was a lesson that has followed him into his professional career.
The relationship between Project Hope Alliance and the Chargers was born out of the generosity of Travis Benjamin. After the franchise moved from San Diego, Travis wanted to continue his support for disadvantaged youth, a practice he started when he first joined the Chargers. Chase Hartman, who works for the team’s front office as a community relation’s manager, brought a list of local non-profits to Travis, who quickly selected Project Hope Alliance to be the recipient of 5 season tickets to all home games. The tickets came with one stipulation—that they be used for Project Hope Alliances families.
The tickets were a huge hit with families, who regularly attend the games and cheer Travis and the Chargers on. Some families shared their gratitude for the experience with the Project Hope Alliance case managers, experiences that were passed on to Travis through a letter, which is now taped to the inside of his locker.
When Travis wanted to do more and have a chance to meet some of the families, Project Hope Alliance turned to St. Andrew’s for help. By providing enough space in a private setting, St Andrew’s allowed the Project Hope Alliance families to relax and enjoy the experience without unwanted attention. At the end of the evening, as Travis was being thanked again for generously donating his season tickets, he stopped and responded, “Oh no, it’s a blessing to give them to you.”
For more information on Project Hope Alliance and our other ministry partnerships, please visit www.sapres.org/extendingthefamily.