ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —It didn't take long for Brandon Marshall to find what he describes as his purpose.
As a star at Cimarron-Memorial High School in Las Vegas, and later at the University of Nevada, he knew his impact could stretch beyond the boundaries of a football field. But it wasn't until he established himself in the NFL with the Broncos that he had the resources to explore the kind of impact he could have. It started with team-based community events and later progressed to his own football camp and mentorship program.
"It's just something that's always been inside me," Marshall said Wednesday. "It's just innate. It's kind of hard to explain, but it makes me feel fulfilled in a way as well. I have a passion for football, and I love it to death, and it allows me to be able to do these things, to be able to make an impact on a greater scale than just the fans and help bring a championship. The fact that I can directly affect lives is what makes me feel good, and it's part of my purpose."
Marshall's ability to fulfill his purpose off the field changed vastly on Wednesday, though, when he and the Broncos announced a $50,000 donation to the FEEL (Feed & Educate to Empower Leaders) Movement. In addition to distributing FEEL Boxes in both Las Vegas and Denver, the monetary contribution will benefit three select organizations — the Denver Rescue Mission, Adolescents Know Your Rights (AKYR) and Action Youth.
Each organization represents and serves a pillar in the FEEL Movement.
With the donation, the Denver Rescue Mission will be able to prepare about 8,000 meals for the low-income and homeless, serving as a "first step out of poverty," according to President and CEO Brad Meuli.
AKYR helps teach youth accountability, autonomy and critical thinking as well as skills to interact with law enforcement. This cause especially hits home with Marshall, who watched his cousin, a juvenile probation officer, help adolescents in similar situations. It gave Marshall a first-hand perspective on how he could help at-risk youth.
"I was just telling [Brandon], this grant is the reason we are going to go ahead and do programming next summer instead of stopping and looking for money to continue doing programming," said LeRita Cavness, director of AKYR. "So it means everything."
Action Youth is dedicated to helping urban students develop leadership skills through "healthy life choices, academic excellence and leading to serve." The donation will allow the organization to promote a part-time staff member to full-time, said President and CEO Jerry Torrez.
All three organizations reflect the values of the FEEL Movement, and with Marshall and the Broncos' help, all three will be able to provide additional resources to youth and families in the Denver area.
"It means everything," said Marshall of the team's support. "I know I've been in the headlines in this community for different things. Some people regarded it as good and some people regarded it as negative, but I think one thing nobody is can say is that I'm not out here trying to help and create change in the community. So the fact that they backed me and got involved, it means a lot."
That isn't the only way the FEEL Movement gives back. It has a partnership with "Shop Now To Fund," a socially conscious shopping e-commerce marketplace that allows customers to support Marshall's organization. For every $250 raised this way, the FEEL Movement gives out a "FEEL Box" — which includes hygienic materials, a tablet with headphones and a month's worth of food vouchers — to a low-income family.
The FEEL Movement is the product of years' worth of research and several discussions between Marshall andExecutive Vice President of Public and Community Relations Patrick Smyth. Marshall used this summer to focus on how he could help his communities in unique ways that benefit low-income citizens in several different manners.
"To me it wasn't always just about the money but also, 'OK, how can I come up with something that's kind of unique?'" Marshall said. "On [Shop Now To Fund] you can go and you can actually purchase something… and then 40 percent of the proceeds can go to my charity or any charity that they have on their website. And I thought that was unique. I thought it was dope. So then, I kind of came up with this idea of a FEEL Box providing these hygiene and educational products and this food to low-income families. I thought it was amazing."
Marshall isn't one to rest on his laurels on or off the field. And even with an impactful donation supporting organizations that follow the FEEL Movement's three endeavors, it's only a starting point for what he hopes to accomplish.
"This is a dream of mine," Marshall said. "I think everybody knows that I have a heart for the community. So for the Broncos to get behind me and the initiative that me and my team have helped to launch, it's just a beautiful thing. I will change lives, and this is just the beginning. I hope to do this for years to come and hopefully take my foundation and things I'm doing in the community to new heights each year."