Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is known for catching touchdown passes, celebrating his tail off and generating plenty of attention, but to hundreds of kids in Kansas City, he’ll soon be known for something else — the robotics lab he helped build.
The 87 & Running Robotics Lab is a part of Operation Breakthrough’s recent $17 million expansion, which also includes an art center and gymnasium.
Kelce contributed $45,000 — half of which came through his foundation and the other half from his own pocket — to the construction of the lab, which will serve over 300 students at Operation Breakthrough, a 47-year-old Kansas City nonprofit that provides a safe space and educational opportunities to children from underserved communities.
What’s more, the lab will also serve 175 first-, second- and fifth-graders from three local elementary schools, in addition to 100 freshmen from Central High School.
“It’s been a pleasure of mine to raise money and see the smiles on these kids’ faces,” Kelce said during a walkthrough of the new facility in the spring. “I wanted to give to an organization that was helping kids in this type of way. To be able to support something as unique as the robotics team, it’s fascinating to me.”
The lab includes state-of-the-art equipment that is designed to provide students of all interests and abilities with hands-on, engaging experiences in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“I was just across the street in the new building, in awe that they’re actually doing this stuff for kids,” he said with a laugh. “They’re giving these kids an amazing opportunity to get excited about something they could possibly be doing for the rest of their lives. It’s dope.”
Kelce grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and he says that growing up around people from diverse backgrounds allowed him to have empathy for others.
“I understood a lot of different ways of life, and I know that kids have very different upbringings — some more fortunate that others,” Kelce said. “Knowing that mine was more fortunate than my friends’ that I grew up around, wanting to help them was a huge thing for me that sticks with me to this day.
That’s when he decided that if he could ever do something to help people in underserved communities, he would.
Kelce’s annual “Walk the Walk” fashion benefit — which raises the funds that 87 and Running uses to support Operation Breakthrough and Children’s Mercy — will be held on Sept. 20, the Thursday before the Chiefs’ first home game.
Kelce is looking to expand his charitable purposes, as well, as he has his eye on helping out in his hometown of Cleveland Heights.
“I know that the levee in my hometown is kind of shaky,” Kelce said. “That comes with releasing teachers and extracurricular activities, and those extracurricular activities are the only reason I’m here, doing what I’m doing today.
“So giving back and finding a way to help fund those, to help these kids get the right equipment, I think that’s huge and definitely something I want to start to focus on.”
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