The NFL and its 32 teams do an exceptional job of giving back to communities throughout the United States each and every year. As for the St. Louis Rams, they have been paying it forward since their arrival in the Show-Me State in 1995. The late Georgia Frontiere, the only female owner in a male-dominated sport, started the ball rolling with her many charitable contributions, which included the Fulfillment Fund (helping underprivileged students pursue higher education) and donating $1 million to help build the Sedona Cultural Park and Frontiere Performing Arts Pavilion in Sedona, Ariz.
While the Rams now have a new leader in majority owner Stan Kroenke, chief operating officer Kevin Demoff continues to carry the torch when it comes to assisting those in need. Yesterday marked the latest chapter in the team’s community involvement efforts as the Rams’ 4th Annual Playground Build took place at the Fairmont City Library Center in Fairmont City, Ill.
Demoff, when asked how such efforts got started, deferred credit to former head coach Steve Spagnuolo.
“It was his vision,” Demoff said. “He came from the Eagles (and) this is something they have done for some time. Everybody has a hallmark project, and this was something that Coach Spags was passionate about and has become a great tradition within the organization. We wanted to continue it. It’s something our staff rallies around, our players rally around. The entire organization gets to come out and chip in.
“We do a day of service every month when we shut the building down, but this is the one where all the players are there, the coaches, all the scouts and staff. It’s a scope large enough, when you build a playground, to get everybody involved in for the day. (It’s) something people look forward to, and today here in Fairmont City is a great opportunity to build a playground for a community that doesn’t have one. The nearest playground is eight miles away.”
Demoff was also asked about the overall process of choosing the recipient for such a generous project.
“Sarah Rouland and Molly Higgins, who oversee our playground build, they took all the applications,” he said. “We had another fifty or so this year. They came to the site visit, but when you get across the river into Illinois, and to hear about kids in this community – which is about 5,000 people strong – (who) don’t have a playground within eight miles, they have a library but nowhere to go out. You combine that with our efforts around youth fitness, Play 60 and the NFL wanting to get kids out and involved, and us wanting to leave an impression on communities that need it, this was an obvious choice.”
Fairmont City is a member of the Mississippi Valley Library District, located in a community five miles east of St. Louis. The Fairmont City Library Center has multiple functions, starting with being the nucleus for a village without a school, city park or a playground structure. The Rams’ goal was to erect a playground and also help with various building renovations and beautification projects – all in one day.
Fairmont City’s population is 66 percent Hispanic, according to information provided by the team. The median household income is less than $35,000, which means more than 38 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
The Rams partnered with NuToys Leisure Products on this project. Last year, the Rams built a playground for Giant Steps, a special education school and therapy center for children afflicted with autism. The 2010 playground build was with the St. Louis Public School District at Monroe eMints Academy. In 2009, the Rams built a playground in East St. Louis.
“This is one of the things that gives us the most joy, is giving back to the community,” Demoff said, “reminding people we are here 365 days a year, figuring out ways to get our staff connected with youth and families, making St. Louis a better place to live.”
With the Rams’ community service done for the week, and the organization heading to Joplin next week, the focus of head coach Jeff Fisher and company will now shift to their full-squad minicamp, which takes place Tuesday through Thursday at the ContinuityX Training Center in Earth City.