COLUMBIA — Former Missouri football star Jeremy Maclin returned to Columbia on Tuesday.
The current Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver’s visit was for a charitable cause. During a news conference announcing Missouri football’s 2013 recruiting class, Maclin had an announcement of his own.
His foundation, the Jeremy Maclin Foundation, will be giving back to the youth, to the community and to the people who helped him become a success story. The foundation will be hosting the Mizzou Football Legends Weekend of Giving in Columbia on April 5 and April 6.
“I know there’s not really much that former football players do there (in Columbia and at MU),” Maclin said in a phone interview Friday. “I wanted to change that trend.”
Maclin knows all too well the meaningful effect a helping hand can have on a child. Inspired by his own experiences growing up, Maclin has had this vision for his foundation since its beginning in 2010.
Maclin’s early life was characterized by an unstable family situation. He was raised in Kirkwood, a St. Louis suburb with a population of 27,540 residents. His mother, Cleo Maclin, worked long hours to support Maclin and his two brothers, a difficult challenge for any woman. That’s when Maclin received his first helping hand.
One evening, Jeff Parres, a local urologist doubling as Maclin’s youth football coach, dropped Maclin off at home. Noticing the state of Maclin’s living conditions, Parres decided to lend a hand. Weekend meals at the Parres household turned into sleepovers.
Finally, at the age of 16, Maclin made the Parres’ home his permanent residence. Although his biological family remained in his life and their love for each other never faltered, the Parres family offered him a stable home life.
Maclin’s story is no different than many others in the National Football League. Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Michael Oher, whom the movie “The Blind Side” was based on, and San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis both had surrogate families who offered stability.
These players might not have reached their goals of playing professionally without help from those outside their biological families.
Maclin understands every child won’t grow up to be a sports star. His gifts are a rarity. He believes, however, that every child deserves a stable environment in which to grow. They all deserve an opportunity to reach their full potential.
In Boone County, 29 percent of children below the age of 18 are living in single-parent households and 17 percent of children under the age of 18 are living below the poverty line, according to a May 2012 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps report. This translates roughly into 9,550 and 5,580 children, respectively. Maclin hopes to improve family life for this population and assist their families through financial and emotional support provided by his foundation.
His foundation has three primary goals. First, he wants it to help individuals growing up in difficult situations - like he did - achieve a stable family life. Second, he wants it to promote and support youth football organizations. Third, he wants it to help disadvantaged youth reach their academic goals.
Over its three years, the Jeremy Maclin Foundation has organized numerous activities in both St. Louis and Philadelphia. Every summer, the foundation hosts a summer football camp in St. Louis where his Philadelphia teammates are regular participants. In the fall, the foundation organizes back-to-school programs that promote education and provide youth with school supplies.
The foundation is currently seeking to partner with local organizations with the goal of raising awareness and providing support for foster children.
The foundation’s first event in Columbia will include an autograph signing, a youth football camp, a home run derby and will culminate in a softball game played by former Missouri football players at Taylor Stadium.
“It’s going to be offense versus defense. I’m coaching the offensive team and ‘Spoon (former Missouri football player and current Atlanta Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon) is coaching the defense,” Maclin said. “We’re trying to get as many former players back as possible.”
The foundation will partner with three non-profit organizations yet to be named. They will share the proceeds from the event. A portion of the earnings will also be donated to the Aaron O’Neal Endowment, a fund founded in the memory of Maclin’s former Missouri football teammate who died after a preseason practice.
Despite the excitement of the upcoming activities, Maclin remains focused on the larger goal of impacting the Columbia community beyond the weekend’s events.
“The University of Missouri and our Mizzou football family means so much to all of us,” Maclin said. “I want to bring these guys back to use this event as an opportunity to give back to Columbia and the Mizzou program.”