KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If it's pre-season football time, it's also back-to-school time. Once again this year, Kansas City Chief's all-pro linebacker Derrick Johnson is joining the two as part of his "Defend the Dream Foundation" teaming up with Big Brothers Big Sisters to kick off the school year in style.
Kids had fun whacking the Oakland Raiders’ helmets on Thursday and it was even more fun when they had a chance to hang out at Arrowhead Stadium's "Sports Lab" and an all-pro like Johnson, too.
"Treating 'em to Chiefs’ hospitality," Johnson said.
They are bigs and littles of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program who were treated to a night of fun. But their host, the product of a single-parent home himself, as many of these kids are, hopes it's more than that.
"Bringing awareness to the education part, and the literacy part and gearing up and being excited about school. This is my way of giving back and I'm very passionate about it," Johnson explained.
And these Big Brothers and Big Sisters are passionate about the lessons they can share; someone to talk to for inner-city kids from single parent families, someone like Eric Groves, who loves sharing life lessons he's learned.
“Life is not about ourselves, but it's about others, making life better for others around us," Groves said.
And spending time with little brother Kamias, who had the chance to meet a Pro-Bowler and learn from a mentor.
"It was someone to be there for me, to look up to, besides my mom, because my mom was a single-parent. So I have Big-E, my big bro to look up to, to help me out and everything," Kamias said.
With 400 kids on a Big Brothers Big Sisters waiting list, there are too many Kamias who don't have that big brother or sister to look up to--too many needing just a couple of hours a week.
Nearly 200 littles lined up for a Pro Bowl handshake and a school supply start to the year. The NFL star behind it all knows all too well how critical that friendship and that solid start can be to a child's future.
"When you're in the inner-city, education is what you need, that's your way out," Johnson said.
If you want to be a Big Brother Big Sister, call the organization locally at (816) 561-5269. The idea is to spend about two hours a week with your brother or sister. The "Gearing Up" program also got a big lift from State Farm Insurance.