Monday, January 23, 2012

Gridiron Giving: Matt Birk's HIKE Foundation

Yesterday, the three finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award were announced.  This is an annual award given to one player who exemplifies the award’s standards for achievement both on the field, through game performance, and off the field, through service to the community.  As part of the selection process for this prestigious award, each of the 32 teams in the NFL nominates a single player from its roster.  These are narrowed down to three finalists.  I’m proud to say that charities of two of the three 2011 finalists were among those profiled in Naptime Huddle’s “Gridiron Giving” series:  Charles Tillman’s Cornerstone Foundation and Philip Rivers’ Rivers of Hope Foundation.

To complete our look at NFL player charities, I decided to open the series back up for the HIKE Foundation, the charitable organization of the third Man of the Year finalist, Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk.  Matt was also a Walter Payton award finalist in 2008.

Matt Birk, a 14-year NFL veteran, played for the Minnesota Vikings for eleven years before joining the Baltimore Ravens in 2009.  An alumnus of Harvard University, graduating with a 4.4 GPA, Birk surely appreciates the value, and privilege, of receiving a good education.  In fact, in 2010 Sporting News placed Matt at No. 6 on its list of the top twenty smartest athletes! 

Matt began the HIKE Foundation (which stands for “Hope, Inspiration, Knowledge and Education”) while in the Twin Cities and turned its focus to Baltimore-area youth when he joined the Ravens.  The mission of HIKE is to provide at-risk children with the programs and resources they need to navigate the key transitions in their education:  from elementary to middle school, then to high school and college.  To achieve these goals, the Foundation has two signature programs:

Ready, Set, Read!:  This program encourages students to read by offering incentives for accomplishing reading goals.  They can win a variety of prizes such as gift cards, autographs and even tickets to Ravens games.  The grand prize is a school assembly and party with Matt, who is also serving as the “reading spokesman” for Baltimore’s elementary and middle schools.

Read and Rise:  The Foundation has partnered with Scholastic Books to commit to providing over 15,000 books to more than 5,000 at-risk children in an effort to support children’s literacy.  The Read and Rise program also aims to help schools and families prepare kids for learning by fostering positive attitudes, skills and behaviors needed to get kids engaged in, and excited about, learning.

To learn more about the HIKE Foundation, including information on how you can help the Foundation and its mission, visit the Foundation’s web site at

In case you missed them, here are the links to the other posts in our “Gridiron Giving” series:

To see all of the Gridiron Giving posts, you can also click on the "charity" label in the left sidebar.

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