CHICAGO (AP) — The NFL staged its third national NFL Huddle for 100 event Wednesday at Douglas Park, with beautifying areas of the park the main goal.
Commissioner Roger Goodell and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot attended Huddle Up to Play it Forward, along with about 300 volunteers on the day before the league kicks off its 100th season with the Bears hosting the Packers.
Also on hand for cleanup projects were former players John Randle and Orlando Pace, both Hall of Famers, Leonard Wheeler and Marty Moore, plus local dairy farmers.
The volunteers began the creation of a natural area along a lagoon, including planting native species and creating a new path. There also was a scavenger hunt trash pickup throughout the park; mulching trees; and painting railings around a field house.
"Douglas is one of these big city parks where some areas have been done and some have not," said Anna Isaacson, the NFL's senior vice president of social responsibility. "We looked at what parts could use sprucing up, making it a better place for the kids, and making some new trails. They identified key areas that need touching up."
The NFL's goal is to get 100 million minutes of volunteer time for such causes and currently is almost at 20 million before the season has begun. The previous two national events were in Nashville around the draft , and in Canton, Ohio before the Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions.
"If you have ever volunteered, you get a special high from being around people who share interest and share wanting to leave a legacy," Isaacson said. "Wherever we do these projects, we know the NFL brings people together, and to be able to get them in volunteering is getting that special feeling."
Each NFL team will be staging its own events as well; some already have. There is a monthly award for getting fans to donate the most volunteer time, with a $5,000 grant going to a community project. The club that has had the most volunteers for the 100th season will get $100,000 for similar projects.
Three clubs have won local grants: the Rams, Seahawks and Vikings.
Among the national huddles ahead will be one in October during Breast Cancer Awareness month, and one in November, when the league salutes the military.