#parent | #kids | Former Foothill High football star Bobby Okereke ‘steps up’ to fight youth homelessness – Orange County Register

Bobby Okereke didn’t just emerge as a bigger play-maker on defense this season for the Indianapolis Colts, the Foothill High and Stanford University grad found a way for his efforts to also combat youth homelessness in Orange County.

During his final four games, the second-year linebacker raised money for StandUp for Kids-Orange County, a nonprofit group in Costa Mesa, by donating $1 for every yard he ran. Okereke’s distance, about 1,600 yards per game, was tracked by a sensor.

Okereke’s campaign also was supported by private donors who pledged from a penny to 10 cents for every yard he covered during the stretch drive of the NFL season. The Colts lost to the Buffalo Bills, 27-24, on Saturday, Jan. 9, in the AFC wild-card round, but Okereke raced 1,652 yards to cap his fundraising at nearly $8,000 for StandUp for Kids.

“This is such a good cause,” Okereke, 24, said this week during via a Zoom call. “There’s an opportunity for me to make a big impact.”

StandUp for Kids, which has chapters across the nation, aims to “end the cycle of youth homelessness,” said Michael Olson, director of development for the group. The agency works with youth ages 12 to 24 with housing and mentoring programs.

In Orange County it is active with those ages 18 to 24.

“College students and homeless is a growing issue in Orange County, and has been even pre-pandemic,” Olson said.

The $8,000 raised by Okereke will put four candidates through the agency’s Journey to Self-Sufficiency program, Olson said.

“That’s incredible,” said Okereke, who recorded 77 total tackles, six pass deflections, one interception and recovered two fumbles this season for the Colts, which went 11-5. “It’s really just spreading the awareness about this issue that really will make the most impact.”

Since the onset of the pandemic, StandUp for Kids has experienced challenges with funding and connecting with youth, Olson said. Last year, the agency served about 330 youth in the county. But the agency discovered a partner in Okereke through a connection over social media.

“He’s the first NFL football star who has done something like this for our chapter,” StandUp for Kids Executive Director Justine Palmore said of Okereke, who played for Coach Doug Case at Foothill. “Maybe if Bobby is able to do a little virtual lunch with (the youth) or something, they would probably lose their mind.”

Okereke said his parents Kingsley and Sandra, who grew up in poverty Nigeria but became successful in the United States, provided much of his inspiration to help StandUp For Kids. Okereke added his family has long-valued education.

“Throughout his life, (Okereke) has been involved in community projects,” Case said. “If there is a civic cause that needs his attention, he is the first to step up and bring it to the forefront.”

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