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Positive Impact: 'Help Tackle Hunger' Food Drive

The positive impact of Name, Image and Likeness was on full display last month with the 2023 “Help Tackle Hunger” Food Drive. This marked the second year of this program, which was a collaborative effort between Illini supporters John and Bonnie Dauer, St. Matthew Catholic School, Eastern Illinois Foodbank, ICON Collective and 15 Fighting Illini football team members.

On October 2nd, the “Help Tackle Hunger” Food Drive kicked off with a pep rally event with the St. Matthew Raiders, which included grades Pre-K through 8th grade. Each grade was assigned at least one Illini football team captain to lead the charge. A competition took place during the food drive to see which class could raise the most non-perishable items. The winners were set to earn a pizza party and spend more time with the football team members on campus.

The competitive spirit was tremendous, but even more special was the overall impact of the drive, which concluded on October 16. The two-week effort brought in 36,616 food items to the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, which equates to over 50,000 meals for people in central Illinois. Leading the competition among the St. Matthew Raiders were the Kindergartners, with almost 6,500 food items. A very close runner-up were the 2nd graders, followed by the 3rd graders, with each class contributing over 6,300 food items.

The food drive proved to be one of the largest for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank this year, and the timing could not have been any better as we quickly near closer to the holiday season. Eastern Illinois Foodbank Vice President of Development, Amanda Borden, reflected on the impact of this food drive, “Eastern Illinois Foodbank is incredibly grateful to the students and staff at St. Matthew, the Illini student athletes, ICON Collective, and the Dauer’s for their remarkable commitment to ensuring everyone in our community has access to the food they need to live a happy and healthy life. As we continue to see an elevated need for emergency food assistance, it is inspiring to see the community come together to help our neighbors.”

The generosity and vision of John and Bonnie Dauer was the first step in creating an incredible NIL opportunity for 15 Illini football team members. The enthusiasm and goodwill of the youth at St. Matthew and the overall Champaign-Urbana community enabled this food drive to shatter expectations and to leave a lasting impression on the lives of so many in our community.

“The benefits of this NIL initiative went beyond the overwhelming amount of food collected, but the unmeasurable positive aspects within the community,” said John Dauer. “Thank you to the St. Matthews administration, families and students for their outpouring of support. Every student, in every class, participated, resulting in twice the amount of food being raised as originally set as the goal! Bonnie and I deeply appreciate and thank the 15 Illinois Football student-athletes for their time and efforts to make this initiative successful. These players are truly heroes, both on and off the playing field. The “Help Tackle Hunger” campaign has been quite a passion for Bonnie and myself, and we hope all Illini Alums take the opportunity to support NIL initiatives through ICON. This campaign reiterated that everyone has the opportunity to make a difference!”

NIL continues to be a topic of great conversation around college athletics, and ICON is acutely focused on providing the most robust NIL opportunities to retain and attract the highest-level talent. Through so many of these activities, Illini student-athletes can pass along their time and talents to countless community organizations, making NIL a win-win for athletes and the local community.

To become an ICON and to be part of such meaningful community service initiatives, please reach out to ADMIN@ILL-ICON.COM or visit Follow @ICONforIllini on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for updates.


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