By Lisa Zimmerman, Player Engagement Insider
When Nick Sundberg’s wife, Flor, handed him a newspaper article to read two years ago, the Washington Redskins long snapper had no idea many lives would be changed as a result.
The article talked about a program in Missouri where clothes washers and dryers were put into three schools with at-risk students with a high rate of unexcused absences, and offered students the ability to drop off their laundry at the school. Attendance rates skyrocketed, in some cases by 90 percent, and grades rose sharply as well. It turned out that an overwhelming amount of these children hadn’t been showing up to school simply because they didn’t have clean clothes. Once they had the ability to do laundry, everything changed.
Sundberg knew immediately it was something he wanted to get involved with and he approached the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation for help.
“The kids felt like they were part of the community, that they were being cared for so, they wanted to go to school,” Sundberg said. “I couldn’t believe that that was possibly a solution to this giant problem. I brought it to our charitable foundation and said, ‘If this is this easy, we’re doing a disservice by not having a program like this in our community.’”
Sundberg fronted the money and Loads of Love was launched. The foundation went about putting the resources in place, determining which schools had the greatest need, purchasing the appliances, and finding the plumbers and electricians to do the installations.
“[The foundation] reached out to Prince George’s County (in Maryland, just outside of Washington D.C) and they were all in,” Sundberg said. “They told us that washers and dryers are the number one thing that are asked for nationwide and that they don’t get. That blew my mind. I had no clue that was something that people ask for.”
In early November, the program was officially launched with a ribbon-cutting at the Magnolia Elementary School in Lanham, Maryland.
“These schools want kids [to attend] so, hopefully we can create an incentive,” Sundberg said.
Plans are in place to grow the program further in the Washington, D.C. area. The team’s foundation is already working on fundraising ideas, and a few of his teammates who found out what he’s doing have made donations. In addition, they are looking to implement a grant program in 2018 that will allow schools to apply for assistance in installing these appliances. Sundberg pointed out that this program is something that is easily implemented at a grass roots level, anywhere in the country.
“I don’t want this to be something only I can do so, that’s why I didn’t create my own foundation,” Sundberg said. “I want people to do this on their own. But, we’ll send you a blueprint of how we’re doing it. The more kids we can help, the better. I don’t have to be directly involved.”
Sundberg will bring awareness to the program on a much wider scale when he participates in the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats during week 13, wearing white cleats decorated with soap bubbles. And, the cleats will then be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to Loads of Love.
One simple gesture from his wife, has now given Sundberg the ability to help thousands of children.
Lisa Zimmerman is a long-time NFL writer and reporter. She was the Jets correspondent for CBSSports.com, SportsNet New York’s TheJetsBlog.com and Sirius NFL Radio. She has also written for NFL.com.