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Broncos named one of four finalists for Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year Award


The Broncos could be in line to add a new trophy to their collection.

On Wednesday, ESPN announced the Broncos are among the four finalists for its Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year Award, which recognizes sports teams that show "how teamwork can create a measurable impact on a community or cause." As a finalist, Broncos Charities will receive a $25,000 grant. If the team wins, it will receive an additional $75,000.

Through innovative and extensive programs and a relentless commitment to public service, the team has worked to leave an enduring impact on the Denver community and throughout the state of Colorado.

In 2019 alone, the Broncos contributed more than $1.5 million in direct grants, programs and events, and in-kind support; launched the Community Grant Program, which allocated $150,000 to help fund 30 different organizations for more than 550,000 Coloradans in its inaugural funding cycle; funded, prepared and distributed more than 275,000 meals in partnership with Food Bank of the Rockies and Denver Rescue Mission; committed $250,000 to renovate and update the Denver Broncos Boys & Girls Club; and connected with and supported 62 percent of the Colorado high schools that play football.

"We could not be more proud of the impactful work that our players, coaches, staff and partners do to benefit our community on a year-round basis," Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis said. "Most recently, our players have really stepped up to provide meaningful support during this tremendous time of need for so many affected by the coronavirus. I also want to recognize Allie [Engelken] and our community development team for the encouragement they provide our players to give back, pursue causes that are important to them and use their platform in a positive way."

The Broncos' impressive legacy dates back several decades, led by late Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen's desire for his club to be "No. 1 in everything" — not just the team's on-field performance.

The Broncos Boys & Girls Club is a testament to that, as it is still the only branch in the country that is fully funded by a professional sports team.

Bowlen was there when the club opened on Aug. 28, 2003, and in the years since, it has provided a safe and vital resource for children. More than three-quarters of the kids there earn mostly A's and B's, and senior club members graduate from high school at a rate 20 percent higher than the Denver Public School graduation rate. Children at the club are also active and engaged residents; nine out of every 10 kids at the club exercise for at least 60 minutes twice a week, and 98 percent of the club's kids spend time with others on projects to help their community.

The team's commitment to the club remains strong nearly 17 years later. Over the years, the team has contributed $6.6 million in funding, which has allowed the club to expand in 2008 with the Darrent Williams Memorial Teen Center, named in honor of the former Broncos cornerback who so often visited children there, and in 2018 with the U.S. Bank outdoor sports court.

"With Pat Bowlen's commitment … it's grown into a special place," President and CEO Joe Ellis said in 2018. "I know Pat would be very, very proud of how this has evolved."

The Broncos have also taken a leadership role in the support of youth football with the Futures Football program, which is a middle-school tackle football program held in the spring to connect students with the coaches who will lead their high-school teams in Denver and Aurora Public School.

Denver Broncos Charities, the team's charitable arm, funds the program, providing a value of approximately $465 to each student in the form of equipment, coaching, training, officiating costs and a comprehensive character development program through Project PAVE.

Since the program's first year in 2009, Denver Public Schools has seen participation in high school football increase by more than 25 percent, which has played a critical role in saving high school football in the district.

The team has also provided opportunities for players to get involved more over the years, and since 2017, player service hours have increased by 79 percent. In 2019, 120 different Broncos players took part in voluntary community events and totaled 1,750 hours in service through 874 appearances and events.

The Broncos have also made their impact felt with their involvement in other ways.

They have hosted one of the state's largest community blood drives every year since 1997, which has helped provide blood to support more than 120,000 patients.

With the Fight Like A Bronco campaign, the Broncos became the first NFL team to expand the league's A Crucial Catch breast-cancer awareness initiative into one that recognizes people who have been impacted by all kinds of cancer. Since 2016, the Broncos have donated more than $250,000 to the American Cancer Society to fund research and prevention efforts focusing on awareness and screenings. Funding directed to the early detection of both colorectal and breast cancer has resulted in more than 72,000 Coloradans gaining access to screening opportunities.

After Bowlen was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2014, his family and the team have helped raise more than $600,000 for the Alzheimer's Association with "Team Super Bowlen."

With a contribution of $150,000, the Broncos were also one of the first businesses to commit to the opening of the region's only family justice center, where domestic violence survivors can find safety, support and the services needed to help rebuild their lives and heal their families. The Rose Andom Center, which opened in 2016, served 2,000 domestic violence survivors in 2019.

Denver Rescue Mission has also been a key partner over the years. Broncos players have visited annually to serve meals, host holiday parties and show their support. The organization has donated more than $260,000 to help provide short- and long-term housing solutions for people experiencing homelessness and addition.

"It is an honor for the Broncos organization to be recognized as a finalist for the Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year Award," Broncos Executive Director of Community Development Allie Pisching said. "This nomination is not a reflection of one program, event or season, but a culmination of decades of strategic and thoughtful service to our community. Under Joe Ellis' leadership, and with the support of hundreds of players, alumni and staff, the Broncos have been dedicated to utilizing our platform to help improve the lives of others."

The winner of the Sports Humanitarian Team Award, as well as the winners of the other Sports Humanitarian Awards, will be announced during the 2020 ESPYS. The other finalists in the Broncos' category are the Los Angeles Dodgers, Sacramento Kings and New York City Football Club.

The Broncos are only the second NFL team in the history of the award to be recognized as a finalist. The other team, the San Francisco 49ers, won the award in 2017.

Over the years, the Broncos have worked to make a significant impact on their community through programming, events, direct grants and more.

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