by Suzanne Cloud
During this grueling pandemic there seem to be certain personality types that rise (or fall) to the occasion: scaredy cats who lack trust in humanity blithely grabbing the last 16 rolls of toilet paper off the shelf and bizarro right-wingers sporting assault rifles descending on assorted state houses to demand the re-opening of tattoo parlors and beauty salons, but then there are the people who jump up to lend a hand, such as Philadelphia Eagles safety and Superbowl champ Rodney McLeod and his wife Erika, who exemplify “the helpers” Mr. Rogers always told children to look for when they were frightened.
As soon as the McLeods decided to stay in Philly and Rodney signed his new Eagles’ contract, they started a project to give back to the community with a non-profit called Change Our Future, of which Erika is executive director. Unfortunately, the launch coincided with the Covid-19 crisis in March. Undaunted, they immediately responded to the calamity by donating $25,000 to Philabundance, knowing that there would be hunger in the city due to worker layoffs and closed schools.
(Rodney originally signed a five-year, $35 million deal in 2016, and that deal was restructured last year, eliminating the 2020 season and dropping his salary last year from $7.5 million to $4 million, including a $1 million bonus for playing all 16 regular-season games.)
Erika McLeod, 29, has been a medical assistant and patient advocate for Fountain Medical Association in Mt. Airy since last September, but since the coronavirus descended on the world, she’s been working from home via telemedicine. Coming across patients from all walks of life, dealing with all kinds of issues and all kinds of insurance (or non-insurance), she keenly feels the worry from the clients she is helping.
“With the pandemic going on,” Erika told the Local, “we put a hold on some of our programs, but we continue to stress where people can help and stand with their community. Donating to Philabundance was important for us because our focus is on children. Food insecurity is a huge problem.”
The McLeods’ non-profit foundation Change Our Future’s website boasts of programs based on four pillars: youth development, college and career readiness, healthy families and strong communities and entrepreneurship.
On April 22, the McLeods, along with Change Our Future, partnered with Toni Roni’s Pizza to deliver food to the University of Pennsylvania coronavirus testing center.” It’s our way of encouraging more acts of kindness,” said Erika. “They (medical workers) all play a vital role right now and are fighting their own battles with their health while being the first line whether someone has the virus or not. We’re so thankful for those who maybe don’t get the acknowledgement daily. We want to make sure they’re put on a pedestal for all of their hard work and bravery.”
The McLeods, both of whose mothers are educators, are also raising awareness for the Grab-and-Go Campaign, the free meal service created by the School District of Philadelphia and the City of Philadelphia, that feeds low-income Philadelphia students while schools are closed. “Let’s make sure they have food in their belly,” said Erika.
“It’s important for us all to stand together and realize that we’re all going through the pandemic at the same time. Stay safe, wash your hands, and think before you act. Be smart and remember, it’s not about you. It’s about the people around you.”
Heading into his fifth season with the Eagles, Rodney McLeod said recently that he wanted to give back to Philadelphia. “It’s the City of Brotherly Love,” he said. “Since I’ve come here to Philadelphia, the fans and community have embraced me. We just want to share our love and give.”
A University of Virginia graduate, Rodney played with the St. Louis Rams (now the Los Angeles Rams) from 2012 to 2015, then came to the Eagles as a free agent in 2016. His best year was 2016, when he played in all 16 games and had 72 unassisted tackles and 11 assisted tackles.
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