Rod Streater knows he could just write a check. But for the Oakland Raiders wide receiver, that wasn’t enough. Since joining the team as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2012, Streater wanted to be hands on, helping children in any way he could. He pestered the Raiders public relations department to make sure they notified him of any and all community events that he could take part in. And every week he would go somewhere, trying to help and make a difference.
“Anything to help children out I wanted to be involved,” he said. “The Raiders PR people would come to me every week and I’d say, ‘Sign me up.’”
Finally, it became clear to him that the best thing he could do was start his own foundation. With the help of the Raiders Director of Player Engagement, Lamonte Winston, he was introduced to Brenda Sniezek who had been with the Kansas City Chiefs for many years and had a solid background in navigating community and charity endeavors.
Early in 2014, The Rod Streater Foundation was established. It exists as what is known as a donor-advised fund at the Silicon Valley Foundation. They immediately established the foundation’s signature program, "Where's Streater? Catch Him Here, There and Everywhere." The goal is to provide opportunities for area children to experience a variety of activities related to technology, culture and the arts, while also promoting healthy lifestyles.
Streater, a native of Burlington, New Jersey who attended nearby Temple University is already putting time and focus into mapping out his long-term plan. “I wanted to put my own personal touch on it and take it back to my hometown eventually. We’ll help out local kids for now.”
The Streater Foundaton works with schools in lower income areas, especially the District 1 area of Oakland, that don’t always have the resources to support educational field trips because something that seems as simple as hiring a few buses can be prohibitively expensive.
So, Streater jumped in and has made educational school trips available in areas that had struggled to provide those opportunities. Even with the foundation still in its gestational stage, Streater has already taken children from Oakland area schools to places like the Chabot Space & Science Center to participate in its “Mission to Mars” as well as to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the San Francisco Zoo.
For Streater it’s all about exposing children to experiences outside of their everyday lives and giving them a broader perspective of the world around them.
The initial success has excited and further inspired Streater as they continue to build programs.
“It’s playing out better (than I thought),” he said. “I had a narrower vision to start and Brenda had a much bigger vision and that’s what’s happening.
And his foundation isn’t the only thing Streater is working on outside of football. Since childhood, Streater has had an artistic bent. He and his older brother competed at drawing pictures when they were growing up. Most were displayed proudly on the family’s refrigerator, but he has bigger goals. In fact, Streater was interested in attending The Philadelphia Institute of Art, but there was one little stumbling block, “They don’t have a football team,” he said with a laugh.
However, Streater took a couple of art classes when he attended community college and knew it was something he wanted to pursue on some level. He’s currently studying game art and design through the Art Institute of Pittsburgh’s online program.
Through it all, Streater has also been dealing with personal heartbreak. His mother succumbed to breast cancer in October. Just days before her passing, he had helped the Raiders, along with the American Cancer Society host a dinner at the Raiders facility for a group of local breast cancer patients and their families and caregivers.
But that tragedy hasn’t slowed him down. The work he is doing with the Streater Foundation has helped keep the joy and gratification in his life.
“I get to go places and see the impact on these kids. You don’t get that from writing a check.”
For more information on The Rod Streater Foundation: www.streater80.com