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Dee and Jimmy Haslam will match Cleveland Browns Foundation Radiothon funds

The third-annual Cleveland Browns Radiothon is underway, and Dee and Jimmy Haslam are stepping up in a big way.

The Browns owners announced Tuesday morning they'll match whatever the 28-hour event raises in what's become a widespread and continued effort to give back to Northeast Ohio.

"We match it dollar-for-dollar, we're excited about doing that so we feel like we need to have skin in the game as well," Dee Haslam said on ESPN 850 WKNR.

"We're really excited about it being able to match it. The more we raise, the more we're going to be able to put into it so we really appreciate everybody's commitment to what we're doing."

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With a focus on education, the Cleveland Browns Foundation aims to identify and eliminate barriers affecting students' readiness to learn so all individuals can reach their maximum potential and have a positive and sustained impact on Northeast Ohio.

And the radiothon, which is one of the foundation's most significant fundraising opportunities through a special auction online and over-the-air auction, is key to providing it with the necessary resources to reach the Cleveland community.

"It took us a little while when we got to Northeast Ohio to figure out what we wanted to be involved in. We really believe that the best way we can help is to focus on education and youth development and not just giving money away but really being involved, really measure what we're doing," Dee Haslam said, adding the Browns have placed an emphasis on school attendance.

"If kids miss 10 or days of school, they're behind, and so it was easy for us to say if we can just get them in school, keep them in school then they're going graduate and they're going to do better in their life."

Throughout the event, fans and ESPN 850 WKNR listeners can bid online and over the air on exclusive Browns experiences and packages, including a chalk talk with head coach Hue Jackson, a fishing trip with Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, lunch with chief strategy officer Paul Depodesta or a WWE Smackdown with tight end Gary Barnidge.

Fans have until 1 p.m. Wednesday to place their bids on numerous items and experiences available in this year's Radiothon, a 28-hour fundraiser that will benefit the Cleveland Browns Foundation in its mission to promote education and youth development across the Greater Cleveland area.

Fans can bid online or by phone at 440-824-3401.

Among current foundation partners are the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (Get 2 School! You Can Make It! attendance campaign), the Centers for Families and Children (2,000 Days), Achievement Centers for Children (Adapted Football League).

"We have a lot of programs going on and we'll hear about them over the next two days so (CMSD superintendent) Eric Gordon is going to get on and tell you about the school attendance program and then we have people coming on talking about our scholarship program, it's called now the Marion Motley Scholarship," Dee Haslam said.

"You'll hear from our work at the Ginn Academy. The next few days, you're going to hear all about our programs but we're highly focused and very intentional about what we're doing."

The Haslams have also spearheaded a two-year campaign to refurbish five CMSD football fields in an effort to bolster the district's attendance rates.

"Whether it's sports or art or music or something that gets them to school, they're more than likely to go, stay there all day and work hard because their grades have to be good," Dee Haslam said.

Last year's Radiothon, which included more than 50 exclusive live interviews with Browns personnel, raised more than $271,472 after the Haslams matched the $150,000 raised by Browns fans in support of education and youth development in Northeast Ohio.

"You can see that everybody is committed to winning football games, creating a great fan experience and giving back to Northeast Ohio," Dee Haslam said.

"That's what we talk about all the time, everybody in the entire building and the organization is focused on that 100 percent and we're really excited about it. And we don't discount that third that we're trying to do, that third thing of giving back is really important to our organization."

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