|Patriots DL Ron Brace returns to his hometown of Springfield to help the team raise funds for tornado relief||06.21.11 at 5:32 pm ET|
By Greg Cameron
On the afternoon of June 1, Patriots defensive lineman Ron Brace was watching TV when he saw a news bulletin about a tornado in his hometown of Springfield.
“I was sitting with my cousin in Foxboro and I saw [a tornado] on the news,” Brace said of his initial reaction. “Seeing Springfield brought back a lot of memories, then I found out it had touched down. It really got to me.”
What Brace saw was the toll taken by his hometown after two tornadoes ripped through Western and Central Massachusetts. In Springfield alone, the landscape has done serious damage — but miraculously, the city did not suffer any fatalities.
In an effort to make an impact on his hometown, he decided to spring into action. Brace organized a recent fashion show, which was helped by a big show of support by some of his teammates, including Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Tate.
The third-year player out of Boston College returned to his hometown again Tuesday to help announce a new fundraising initiative to help with tornado relief in Western and Central Massachusetts at Springfield College’s Stagg Field. In conjunction with the United Way Tri-County, the Patriots and the Kraft family have announced that every dollar raised for the United Way efforts for tornado relief, the team will match it, dollar-for-dollar.
Springfield’s mayor Domenic Sarno stressed the impact that teamwork, like this charitable partnership will have and already has had on rebuilding his city and recovering from the destruction wrought by the tornadoes. In his mind, there’s no better team to call in for reinforcements than the first one to be introduced as a team at the Super Bowl.
“What has carried us through these last couple of weeks has been the resiliency of the residents of the city of Springfield,” Sarno said. “It has helped to put a great team together. And when you think of a team, you think of the New England Patriots.”
The emotional impact of the tornado’s devastation was clearly visible, as Brace talked about his hometown and how it looked after the storm hit. He also pledged to do right by Springfield and use his stature as a professional athlete to help out his community.
“Anytime I can help this town, I will,” a tearful Brace said. “I can’t say thank you enough. This means so much more for the people who need it.”
Also in attendance was Patriots Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett who spoke on behalf of the organization and the Kraft family this afternoon. Tippett sees a big maturation for Brace in the face of this disaster.
“When I see him next, I’m going to remind him about his community outreach duties and how he felt on this stand today,” Tippett said of Brace. “He’s going to be our biggest supporter for this in our locker room.”
Brace is eager to be able to help his hometown of Springfield, and is certainly looking to create more events and fundraisers to give back to a city he loves dearly. The lineman will be back in Springfield later in the week to help out with a youth football clinic put on by the Patriots.
To team up with the Patriots and the United Way Tri-County to help raise with tornado relief in Western and Central Massachusetts visit www.unitedwaytri-county.org/disaster or dial 2-1-1 for more information on how you can help.
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