FOXBOROUGH — Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy traded in his football uniform for a dapper suit Monday evening. The occasion? A gala for his foundation, which raised more than $380,000 to fund internships and scholarships for children aging out of the foster care system.
“I am very proud,” Van Noy said Wednesday.
The mission of the Van Noy Valor Foundation is to support adopted, foster, and disadvantaged youth, and equip them with tools and opportunities to achieve success. The cause is personal for Van Noy, who was adopted as a baby, and his wife Marissa, whose father and younger brother were adopted as well.
When Van Noy takes the field for the Patriots-Bills game Monday, his foundation will be spotlighted once again, this time via his feet. Rather than his typical white Nike cleats, Van Noy will be sporting a navy blue-painted pair complete with the Van Noy Valor Foundation logo.
As part of the NFL’s annual “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign, the league has designated specific weeks when players can represent important causes on their customized cleats.
For Van Noy, the initiative is a chance to bring even more awareness to the foundation he and his wife started in 2014.
The couple has since organized several events in support of those in the foster care system. In 2018, during Van Noy’s first stint with the Patriots, they organized a movie screening for a large group of teenagers from Wonderfund, a private nonprofit that serves kids in the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families system.
On Friday, they’ll host the seventh “Very Van Noy Christmas” for foster care children from three local organizations. The festive evening, hosted at Gillette Stadium, will include cookie and card decorating and photographs with Santa. All in attendance will go home with a Christmas tree and a tote bag filled with gift cards and items off their wish lists.
A total of 25 Patriots players and coach Bill Belichick will be participating in the “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign. After the game, all the cleats (or sneakers, in Belichick’s case) will be auctioned off. All proceeds will go to the respective charities.
Like Van Noy, right tackle Trent Brown and defensive tackles Lawrence Guy and Carl Davis are representing their own eponymous organizations. So are cornerback Jonathan Jones and linebacker Josh Uche, even though both are on injured reserve.
The rest of the players have identified other meaningful causes close to their hearts.
Tight end Hunter Henry chose an organization he’s been supporting since high school, the International Justice Mission, which works to stop human trafficking and slavery. Center David Andrews will be representing Warrior Dogs, a nonprofit that cares for dogs that have ended their service with American troops, for the fifth straight year. Outside linebacker Matthew Judon, whose mother is in remission after getting diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2020, will be supporting the American Cancer Society.
Kicker Nick Folk chose the Children’s Tumor Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the health and well-being of those affected by neurofibromatosis. Folk’s 21-year-old cousin Blake currently has five brain tumors and has undergone at least 20 surgeries since getting diagnosed with neurofibromatosis as a baby.
In 2007, when Folk was a member of the Dallas Cowboys, Blake was preparing to undergo a procedure to remove fluid build-up in his brain. For the surgery, Blake, then 7 years old, had to shave half of his head. Little did he know Folk would show up to support him with half of his head shaved, too.
Special teams captain Matthew Slater picked Compassion International, a Christian humanitarian aid organization with a robust child sponsorship program. Slater and his wife have sponsored a number of children over the years.
“I just think the idea of us supporting children around the world that are disadvantaged — they don’t have basic essentials, they don’t have food, water, clothing — and then giving the message of the gospel is so important to my family and I,” Slatersaid Thursday. “We feel that’s something that we’ve been called to support.”
Left guard Ted Karras will be supporting the Village of Merici, a community and nonprofit organization that was founded by one of his best friend’s mothers.
“It is the only facility in Indiana that provides independent living for adults with developmental disabilities,” Karras said Monday. “The public education system ends at 18 for people with autism, Down syndrome, and other developmental disabilities. The Village provides a place with independent living.”
The Village offers residents affordable housing as well as a number of programs, such as book club, music therapy, gardening, yoga, and cooking classes.
“It allows for them to live a normal life, an independent life, and pursue what they want to pursue, just like the rest of us,” Karras said.
Safety Cody Davis will be representing AxeALS in honor of his friend Eric Stevens, who was diagnosed with ALS two years ago at the age of 29.
Davis and Stevens were roommates their rookie year during training camp for the St. Louis Rams. While Davis made the 53-man roster, Stevens was signed to the practice squad before getting released. He went on to become a firefighter in Los Angeles.
“Eric has not only fought this fatal neurodegenerative disease but has also become a voice for all ALS patients by pushing for change and access to treatments,” Davis wrote in a message on Instagram.
According to the NFL, 12 percent of players chose causes dedicated to disease awareness and prevention. Sixteen percent chose social justice-related causes, and 17 percent chose causes committed to cancer research and support.
The remainder of the Patriots players’ causes
Punter Jake Bailey: Fur The Brand
Defensive tackle Christian Barmore: National Multiple Sclerosis Society
Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne: Team Impact
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower: Year Up
Quarterback Brian Hoyer: MSPCA Angell
Cornerback J.C. Jackson: Embrace with Grace + Boys and Girls Club
Fullback Jakob Johnson: Kristin’s Fund
Quarterback Mac Jones: Boston Children’s Hospital
Safety Devin McCourty: Boston Medical Center
Linebacker Ronnie Perkins: American Cancer Society
Quarterback Jarrett Stidham: NEGU
Cornerback Shaun Wade: Paris Johnson Jr. Foundation
Left tackle Isaiah Wynn: Alzheimer’s Association
Practice-squad center James Ferentz: University of Iowa Snead Family Children’s Hospital
Director of football/head coach administration Berj Najarian: Who We Are