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CHICAGO, IL, November 25, 2009 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Baltimore Ravens Center Matt Birk today announced he has launched an initiative among active NFL players to raise money and provide support for retired NFL players in crisis and address the catastrophic conditions many are currently experiencing since their NFL careers ended.
Birk, a six-time Pro Bowl selection and Harvard University graduate, will spearhead the third annual Gridiron Guardian Program along with Mike Ditka and his Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund to distribute the funds through the organization's player assistance program. "There appears to be a heightened sense of need amongst former players as a result of the recent research conducted by the NFL as well as, the Congressional hearings on dementia, post-concussion syndrome and Alzheimer's," said Birk.
Birk and Ditka are asking current NFL players to make any kind of donation to help their brethren who are in crisis. The donations will help provide financial aid and medical and social services to retired NFL players in dire need. Players can elect to keep their donations and participation confidential or release their names publicly.
"Today I am asking NFL players to stand with me and make a donation for retired players in need," said Birk. "We have benefitted from the sacrifices made by the players of yesterday. Sadly, the price paid by some of those who came before us has been costly. They live in excruciating physical pain and severe mental anguish as a direct result of their playing days. In too many instances, these men have had to deplete their financial resources in an attempt to achieve a quality of life that is bearable, and many have no health insurance or access to medical care. We need your support to help those who came before us. Without it, many of these former players will continue to live in despair and pain."
"This is the time of year to reflect and give thanks for what we have," said Mike Ditka, Chairman of the Gridiron Greats. "It is also a time to recognize that our brothers need our help. It is easy to take for granted financial security, good health and a roof over our heads. The players who come to us for aid do so humbly, with the hope of a hand up, not a hand out."
Birk and the Gridiron Greats have provided every active NFL player in the league with a donation letter explaining the program and encouraging them to support this initiative. Fans can visit www.gridirongreats.org to read more about the Gridiron Greats and players can visit the same site to donate online if they choose.
In 2007 and 2008, Kyle Turley worked with the Gridiron Greats to create the Gridiron Guardian Sunday program, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars from active players for needs such as food, shelter, medicine, medical services, child care and transportation. To date, the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund has provided more than $1,750,000 in direct and indirect aid to retired players.
"Many of the current players of today's game are great humanitarians, and it is amazing that they have reached out to help many of the players who came before them who are now suffering. This is not their responsibility, and the fact that they care and are helping these guys is incredible," said Ditka. "The Gridiron Greats organization is grateful to Matt Birk and Kyle Turley for not only the significant financial contributions they have made, but for their continuing efforts in helping raise funds for these players. We are thankful to all active players who have made this initiative so successful in the past and we hope to have their continued support."
Both sit on the GGAF's Board of Directors which also includes Mike Ditka, Marv Levy, Jimmy Johnson, Gale Sayers and Greg Brown (CEO/Motorola).
The Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund (GGAF) is a non-stock, non-profit 501(c) (3) organization providing financial grants and 'pro bono' medical assistance to retired NFL players in dire need. The organization focuses on the humanitarian side of post-football related issues, which include coordination of social services to retired players who are in need due to a variety of reasons including inadequate disability and/or pensions.
The GGAF's mission is to assist these dire need players who are pioneers of the game and have greatly contributed to the NFL's status as the most popular sport in America. GGAF provides hands-on assistance to help retired players and their families deal with hardships they face after football. The services include medical assistance, financial assistance for utilities, medication, food, automotive payments and childcare.
In addition to fund raising efforts, the GGAF recently announced an expanded medical program which includes facilities, surgeons and medical experts all around the country. Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush in Chicago, OAA Orthopaedic Specialists (Allentown, PA) and LSI (Laser Spine Institute, Tampa, Florida) are now providing state of the art, 'pro bono' medical, orthopaedic and spine care to qualified retired NFL players. Cundy Insurance of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is providing discounted prescription and dental plans as well as affordable health plans to Gridiron Greats members.
For more information regarding the Gridiron Guardian program, please contact the Gridiron Greats office (847) 509-3086 or [email protected].
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