In collaboration with Children of Fallen Patriots, the Washington Football Charitable Foundation and Washington Salute hosted a private Q&A featuring five Children of Fallen Patriot Families and Defensive Tackle Jonathan Allen on Dec. 8.
Defensive tackle Jonathan Allen is no stranger when it comes to having family ties to the military. His father is a 22-year retired Army Sergeant First Class and his brother served in the Army for seven years. On Dec. 8, Allen joined PepsiCo. and the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation to meet with 15 students who have lost parents who served in the military.
After giving his opening remarks, Allen kicked things off by sharing an important message to the students.
"First of all, I want to thank everyone here for their parents sacrifice," he said. "I don't think people really understand when you have a dad or a family member in the military, it's really a family commitment. Even though you might not be the one serving in the military, you definitely share in some of the hardships that go along with having a family member that serves in the military."
Allen shared with the students the importance of building a positive network, life after football and staying motivated.
"In football, people like to give speeches and they like to give motivational stuff, and that's good and dandy, but what're you going to do when that feeling goes away?" he asked the students. "For me, I always look back to my 'why,' and my 'why' is my family, first and foremost. I grew up in foster care for a little bit so I definitely want to help out with the homeless and the youth in D.C."
Allen has been giving back to the community where he was raised since Washington drafted him in 2017. Allen didn't realize how difficult that journey would be, which is why he decided to have a surgical approach when he was first getting started. Washington offered Allen chances to pursue those opportunities, which kick-started three years of philanthropy work and participating in events with military families.
But Allen's true passion is helping underprivileged children. Allen spent part of his childhood in a homeless shelter, which is why he cultivated a relationship with Sasha Bruce Youthworks -- one of the largest and most experienced providers of services to homeless youth and out-of-town runaways in Washington D.C.
Sasha Bruce helps the youth find safe homes; achieve and maintain good physical and mental health; create and strengthen supportive and stable families; and explore opportunities in education and careers. Allen wanted to provide more, though, so he and his wife helped fund an Innovation Lounge in the Bruce House, which is Washington D.C.'s only homeless youth shelter for minors.
"During the season it get's tough, but I really want to find any way I can to help the local area and the local community with my time more than anything."
As the Q&A drew to a close, Allen informed the Representatives with the Children of Fallen Patriots and families that the Washington Football Team and Pepsi partnered up to donate $10,000 for family relief in the 2021 Spring Semester. Then, Head coach Ron Rivera joined the Zoom call to help Cassidy La Bouff, one of the Children Fallen Patriots, announce that Allen was selected as Washington's Walter Payton Man of the Year award nominee.
"I was fortunate enough to play with Walter and I can say this: Jonathan exemplifies the type of teammate, the type of person Walter Peyton was," Rivera said. "Within the team, he was a leader and everybody's friend, and within the community, he was somebody that was a servant, just like you, Jonathan. I'm very proud to hear that you are the Walter Peyton Nominee, so congratulations, kiddo."