Each year, the New England Patriots and owner Robert Kraft donate $200,000 in the name of his late wife Myra to New England residents who exemplify leadership, dedication and a commitment to improving their communities through volunteerism.
Twenty-six men and women were honored at Gillette Stadium last week during the Myra Kraft Community MVP awards including Canton’s Kathy Wood, who was awarded $5,000 for Friends of Canton Football.
Fifteen local volunteers, including Wood, received a $5,000 grant for the non-profit organization for which they volunteer. Ten others received grants of $10,000 for their New England-based non-profit and one grand prize winner was presented with a $25,000 grant for their charity.
“There are some incredible people in our local communities that have dedicated much of their lives to volunteering,” Robert Kraft said. “In creating the Myra Kraft Community MVP Awards, we wanted to show our appreciation for these outstanding community advocates and offer our support to the causes that are so near and dear to their hearts.”
Friends of Canton Football is large and diverse group of volunteers who have funded the Canton High football program since its rebirth in 2006. For a while, the group also funded the girls lacrosse program, too. Wood has been with Friends of Canton Football since the beginning.
Thirteen years ago, while her two boys were in preschool and elementary school, Wood took it upon herself to help create a high school football program in her hometown. She wanted to provide high schoolers with the opportunity to learn important life skills through the game of football.
“When I started volunteering for Friends of Canton Football 12 years ago, it was never with the intention of being recognized,” Wood said. “It is truly amazing to know that I was selected from hundreds of worthy volunteers who were considered for this award.”
Wood helped to obtain a storage unit for equipment, secured a practice field and began fundraising tirelessly to help turn this dream into a reality. She served as the treasurer for 12 years and was recently named President of the organization in 2016.
Thanks to Wood’s commitment, her two children, and hundreds of others, have been able to play the game of football.
Friends of Canton Football issued a statement, too. “It is incredibly gratifying to see Kathy Wood recognized in such a generous, public manner for her 12 years of volunteerism to make high school football an opportunity for Canton kids,” the organization said. “She is more modest than most and never seeks glory for herself so it thrills Friends of Canton Football that in addition to the financial support provided by this grant, the New England Patriots Myra Kraft Community MVP Award is also giving credit to a deserving person like Kathy.”
The 2017 Myra Kraft Community MVP winners range from 17 to 86 years old and represent every New England state. Winning nonprofits provide support for many causes, including education, domestic violence prevention, healthcare, homelessness, mentoring and military support.
“Volunteering has always been important to me,” Wood continued. “I’ve been raised to give back and I have always tried to instill this value in my children. I’ve always thought the greatest gift one can give is the gift of their own time.”
The $25,000 grand prize went to Fabienne Eljacin of Dorchester, Mass., for her Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Roxbury. Nine years ago, Eliacin moved to Dudley Street, a historically underfunded and underserved neighborhood in Boston. The majority of residents are low-income people of color and most residents earn less than $25,000 per year. The neighborhood has a large immigrant population and unemployment rates exceed 25 percent. As a single mother, Eliacin got involved with the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative to make sure that the neighborhood had educational programs available to her daughter.
One other winner from Connecticut was honored. Plainville’s Ryan Matthews received a $10,000 grant for The Susie Foundation, who helps those with ALS.
Friends of Football annual Golf Tournament
The fundraising never stops for Friends of Canton Football. The organization will hold its 13th annual Friends of Football fundraising golf tournament on Friday, Sept. 8, beginning at 10 a.m. at Simsbury Farms Golf Course. Fee is $150 per player with 18 holes of golf, cart, range balls, a light breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can attend just the dinner for $45. Proceeds benefit the Canton High football team and the Canton High Athletic Booster Club.
For more information, please contact Deirdre Lloyd at 860-670-1896 or email the FriendsofCantonFootball@gmail.com.