ROCKY RIVER — **A little more than a month ago, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam was on hand for a groundbreaking at Lorain High School's George Daniels Field. It was the sixth of seven fields the team has committed to renovating in a larger effort to support school and attendance and, speaking generally, give back to Northeast Ohio.
"I can't tell you the impact that that field had on that community," Haslam said Monday morning at the 19th-annual Cleveland Browns Foundation golf tournament. "I'll be honest, I went over to kind of be a team player and I came away totally fired up about what we can do to help that community get more kids to stay in school and go to college."
Indeed, it's projects like the one in Lorain that had Dee and Jimmy Haslam and Cleveland's entire organization — coach Hue Jackson, general manager John Dorsey, players and staff members — at the Westwood Country Club in support of something bigger than football.
"It's what our organization is about, it's what we stand for," said Renee Harvey, vice president and executive director of the Cleveland Browns Foundation.
"It starts at the top with Dee and Jimmy Haslam, it carries over to the football leadership with John Dorsey and coach Jackson and the fact that they bring the entire team out here, our entire football roster, our stuff comes out to volunteer. This is a remarkable day and it just speaks volumes to what our organization is about."
The golf tournament is the team's longest standing and most successful fundraiser, generating more than $3 million since its launch through the collaboration of the Browns, the team's partners and many generous supporters. With a focus on providing high-quality education opportunities for all of Northeast Ohio, the Foundation takes aim at barriers affecting students' readiness to learn so all students can reach their maximum potential and make a positive long-term impact in the region.
Part of that mission has been a two-year project in which the Haslams launched to refurbish five Cleveland Metropolitan School District football fields. In April, they broke ground at George Daniels Field in Lorain and did so again in Toledo earlier this month.
The Browns are also a signature partner of CMSD's "Get 2 School. You Can Make It!" attendance campaign and a project called "Special Teams Packages" to provide students with essential resources. By the end of this school year more than 3,000 students will be supplied with uniforms, daily clothing and school supplies via a partnership with CMSD and Shoes and Clothes for Kids. The lack of appropriate clothing, shoes and school supplies is considered a major obstacle in attending school for many students.
"We talk all the time within the organization, mostly around the main thing, which is winning football games," Dee Haslam said. "But the other thing we try to do is give back to Northeast Ohio and that's equally important. We're so grateful for the support at this (event). You saw what we work on, school attendance is vitally important, we're making a difference. Ten percent more kids go to school because of our efforts and getting that word out — not just our efforts, but our partnership with CMSD — that's a big deal."
Browns players and staff hosted games and activities for CMSD students, who were either selected for their commitment to improving attendance or recipients of the project with Shoes and Clothes for Kids.
"I really think it's important that we as an organization do things together and we're all aligned the right way correctly because we truly believe in giving back and trying to do whatever we can to make a huge impact with youth," head coach Hue Jackson. "You look out and you see our players here, and I want our players to know you can truly make an impact in a kids' life … More than ever, we need to make an impact with our youth."
That, of course, was the purpose of Monday's outing.
"I give Dee all the credit," Jimmy Haslam said. "Our family has always been involved in this number of philanthropic activities and she has forced us to focus really on education and I think education is the great equalizer in our country today."