KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Operation Breakthrough’s state-of-the-art Ignition Lab, powered by Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce’s charitable organization 87 and Running, broke ground Monday.
In just four months the organization will convert an old muffler shop into a new STEM facility.
“It’s going to pave the way for higher paying jobs with industry-recognized skills being offered, but also pathways to college. So it gives kids a lot of different choices,” said Mary Esselman, CEO of Operation Breakthrough.
The Ignition Lab, set to open this fall, will allow Operation Breakthrough to expand its cutoff age and work with students from 8th grade to high school graduation.
The lab will also allow students to learn new skills while earning certification.
Students say Operation Breakthrough has taught them lessons in and out of the classroom.
“I really learned a lot more to ask for help, and a lot of people here are really very open to help and wanting to help, which is really good, and it makes me feel good,” said Semahj Ware, an Operation Breakthrough student.
Kelce was on hand Monday with Operation Breakthrough leaders and students to help get construction underway. After all, when Kelce signed his four-year, $57 million contract extension with the Chiefs, his first purchase was the building that would house the Ignition Lab.
He admits that purchase comes with a lot of bragging rights.
“I’m like, yeah, you know, I am going to a place where Travis Kelce paid personally,” Ware said.
Kelce, along with two students, laid concrete and left a handprint to commemorate the special day.
“The minute I walked through the door, I knew that this place was special,” Kelce said.
He said it feels good to be able to give back to the city that has given him so much throughout the years.
“You know I just want to show this city as much love as they have shown me because I am definitely fortunate because of them,” the Chiefs tight end said.
He said Chiefs players don’t just compete on the field. They also compete in the community, driven to see who can make the biggest impact.
“Without a doubt, man, we are trying to get acknowledged for Walter Payton Man of the Year,” Kelce said with a laugh. “You know what I mean, it’s always a competitive atmosphere in the facility, and you love that. You absolutely love that because you know guys are in it for the right reasons.”
Kelce was nominated for the Man of the Year award last season for his work with Operation Breakthrough. Players are nominated for being outstanding community leaders. Although he didn’t win the main league award this year, Kelce did win the Charity Challenge.