Bowling strikes, splits, and even the occasional gutter ball, friends and supporters of pro-football player Desmond Clark raised money to support his 88 Wayz Youth Organization in the non-profit’s inaugural Pro-Bowler Football Challenge.
The former tight end for the Chicago Bears called in his heavy-hitting, pro-athlete friends to help raise money for the organization that sends mentors into schools in Chicago and Florida.
“It’s just to make them more well-rounded,” Clark explained. “The mentor program is all about [the kids] as people, it’s not really a tutoring thing. We concentrate on social skills, leadership skills and literacy skills.”
Clark explains the athletes themselves couldn’t serve as mentors for 88 Wayz, but they can help by lending their status to the cause.
“They can support events like this. As you see I’ve got a lot of my former teammates, and some guys I’ve never played with before showing up. Otis Wilson just walked by,” Clark said, as the ’85 Superbowl Champ entered the room.
Clark says his own background as the child of divorced parents and a father struggling with addiction inspired him to start 88 Wayz.
“I could’ve gone a number of directions, but I ended up here,” Clark said. “And it was because I had a lot of people in my life to help mold me and shape me and tell me about the decisions that I needed to make.
“So I felt like I should give that back to other kids because somebody did it for me — something I owe to the generation that’s coming up,” he said.
Funds were raised through sponsorships, silent auction, entry fees, and donations. Organizers say a $2,000 per lane sponsorship provides 20 kids with the mentoring they need to excel in education and life. Funds raised by individual bowlers provide mentoring to 480 children. Specifically, the money provides supplies and field trips and events for children in 88 Wayz.
“Mentors are the lifeblood of the organization,” said Clark. “We just try to make our kids more well-rounded adults by teaching them to walk upright, be ethical and moral in all the decisions that they make.”