On Saturday, May 18 the Los Angeles Rams joined more than 10,000 Angelenos in United Way's 12th Annual HomeWalk, the nation's largest fundraiser to end homelessness and help individuals and families secure the safety and stability of a home. The 5K family run/walk raised more than $1.1 million with additional funds expected through May 31.
With his extraordinary leadership on full display, Rams Head Coach Sean McVay provided remarks during the walk's opening ceremony alongside Rams cheerleaders and team mascot, Rampage. Players such as Aaron Donald, Andrew Whitworth & Johnny Hekker served as team captains for the event and were joined by Tight End Tyler Higbee, while the Rams rookies lined up at the finish line and provided encouragement to runners and walkers.
"Today is a day when you realize that there are a lot of things that are much bigger than football," said Coach McVay to the crowd. "What's special about the Rams organization, and more importantly HomeWalk, is you see people doing things that are a lot bigger than themselves. When you think about homelessness and how it effects 53,000 people in Los Angeles, it's really a special thing for everybody to gather here to do something to change that."
Bringing everyone in to end homelessness. The Rams and United Way of Greater Los Angeles raise awareness to end homelessness in the 12th annual HomeWalk walk/run 5k.
HomeWalk is part of United Way of Greater Los Angeles' Everyone In Campaign, which seeks to end homelessness across LA County by providing services to people experiencing long-term homelessness with short-term and permanent housing solutions. Over the past eleven years, HomeWalk has raised over $8.6 million and UWGLA has helped 45,000 neighbors find a home.
"Thousands of homes—safe, stable homes—are how we are ending homelessness," said Elise Buik, President and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles. "We see these solutions changing lives every day and we know we need to do more to get ahead of the crisis we see on our streets and in our communities… This was our first year doing it with the Rams and they allowed us to elevate the platform of the important issue of homelessness. It's so important when a sports team weighs in on a big issue facing the city. The Rams players are here. I think setting that leadership for Los Angeles and the fans is really remarkable and inspires everybody to get involved."
Living up to his deserving reputation as an ultimate community leader, Andrew Whitworth matched the funds raised by the Rams organization and fans with a $16,325 donation. The Pro-Bowl Left Tackle also joined fans in the 5k walk with his family. Coach McVay also made a significant financial contribution to aid in the fight to bring everyone in.
"It's great when you have something like this and to know that our players who people see every Sunday come out to show support for something that means so much to the city," said Whitworth. "The only way we play our game is with community support and for us to return that back to the community is really important to myself and our guys."
Also making laps alongside fellow community members with his young son's arms wrapped around his neck was Rams Punter Johnny Hekker.
"If one life is changed by this than it's all worth it, said Hekker. "But I really believe many more will be changed for the better and we're here to tackle this problem together."
This year's HomeWalk took place at a time when the issue of homelessness in Los Angeles has never been more pressing. In 2018, LA County had the second-highest number of homeless residents of any region in the nation, according to a report released in December by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In addition, LA also had one of the highest numbers (75%) of unsheltered homeless individuals living outdoors, in abandoned buildings or other locations not suitable for human habitation.
"People sometimes forget that LA's homeless community are our homeless neighbors," said Jon Huertas, cast member of the acclaimed NBC drama "This is Us". "What a better way to help people in need in our community who may have caught a bad break and need homes…This year was great with the Rams coming on board. They've been such a boost for the HomeWalk. People look up to them and it's only fitting that they're out here supporting this."
Fans and community members can still make donations to support United Way of Greater Los Angeles & the Los Angeles Rams' mission to end homelessness in LA and help our neighbors in need. If you would like to make a donation, please click here.