Since 2017, 13-year-old CJ Matthews, founder of Blankies 4 My Buddies, LLC, has hosted his annual, charitable flag football game, The Giving Bowl, where kids play a game they love while helping others. Due to COVID-19, the 2020 Giving Bowl looked different. There was no game, but CJ's passion for helping others remained.
"A lot of things have been canceled this year but being kind can't stop. Kindness has not been canceled, and neither has The Giving Bowl," says CJ.
The 2020 Giving Bowl drive-through blanket drive and food giveaway took place at Burdette Gym. Attendees were asked to drop off new children's-themed blankets, donate a nonperishable food item, and register to vote if needed.
"I love sports, but I also enjoy doing my part to empower my community and kids around the world," said CJ. To keep the spirit of the game alive at the event, he asks staff, volunteers, and even attendees to wear a jersey representing their favorite team from any sport. Youth of all ages were encouraged to volunteer.
"The Giving Bowl has always been more about the giving than the football," says CJ.
Each year, CJ teams up with H2H, Inc., a 501 (c)3 nonprofit corporation for The Giving Bowl and other projects. For the past three years, H2H, Inc. has almost independently taken on the food giveaway's responsibility. This year, Feeding GA Families will provide 250 produce boxes, which will include fruit and vegetables, dairy products and meat. This year, CJ was also proud to welcome to the team City of South Fulton's District 5 Councilman Corey A. Reeves, who makes youth empowerment a priority. Councilman Reeves fell in love with the concept when he attended the 2019 Giving Bowl and committed to helping to build the event in District 5, where CJ currently resides.
“I was inspired to see a young man in his early youth who saw a need and filled it while doing something he loved as simple as playing football,” says Councilman Reeves. “I encourage all young people to get involved in their communities,” he says. “It starts with you. Find what your passion is, something you’d do for free, and just do it!” exclaims Councilman Reeves.
Councilman Reeves will also make it easy for those who need to register in time for the runoff elections with onsite voter registration.
Other sponsors included WellCare, Macaroni Kid, College Park East Point Morrow, Atlanta Youth Rugby, C-Matt Sports Performance Training, I’m A Father F1rst, Forever ATL, Community Teen Coalition, Inc., Art in the Paint, and South Fulton Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, who has sponsored the venue for the event since its inception in 2017. There were special guest appearances by Atlanta Falcons’ mascots, Freddie Falcon and Lil Fred.
In July, CJ was recognized for his charitable work throughout COVID-19 by Baskin Robbins as a Pint-Sized Hero. He received free ice cream for a year, a trophy, and a $5,000 donation to his favorite charity, which was H2H, Inc. Members of the Dunkin’ Donuts Atlanta corporate team will be volunteering at The Giving Bowl as well as bringing donuts and coffee for the volunteers.
Blankies 4 My Buddies distributes blankets to sick, displaced, or otherwise traumatized children. To learn more about CJ and Blankies 4 My Buddies, visit Linktr.ee/Blankies4MyBuddies.com or email Blankies4MyBuddies@gmail.com.