Bison alumnus Idonije adds value
Izzy Idonije has spent the past decade playing at the peak of professional football — the NFL — and all the while the Bison football alumnus has used his pro athlete status to fuel another passion: helping others.
“[This] platform has the ability to engage people and for me, I want that engagement to be positive,” says Idonije, who was in Winnipeg in June to host about 130 local youth at his 7th Annual All Star Football Camp. “I want people to walk away and say, ‘This is something that added value to my life.’”
Since 2007, the 32-year-old’s Israel Idonije Foundation has combined sport with compassion to create a vehicle for inspiring underprivileged kids here in Winnipeg, in Chicago where he played for the Bears before being traded to the Detroit Lions at the end of June, and in West Africa. The message Idonije hoped to impart to the young people he connected with at the Winnipeg camp was simple. “At the end of the day, [I want them to know] we care about them,” he said.
Idonije’s parents instilled the importance of community service in him at a young age. Long before he cracked the big leagues, he balanced his U of M playing days with running an after-school program at Ryerson School in Winnipeg. That lifelong commitment earned some lofty praise recently from no less than the Commander-in-Chief: Idonije was recognized as a Daily Point of Light honoree at a July ceremony hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama.
This article first appeared in the September 12, 2013 issue of The Bulletin.