Why big-hearted Broncos big man Orlando Franklin is lifting up at-risk youths of Toronto

Orlando

Orlando

We hear too much about the handful of thick-headed NFLers who get themselves handcuffed during idle periods, such as Aaron Hernandez.

We don’t hear enough about the hundreds of NFLers who, in the same timeframes, usually with no cameras present and never any arresting police, donate their time and money in the best-hearted attempts to improve the lives of young people in their — in our — community.

NFLers such as Orlando Franklin.

Through his charitable foundation, the right-side offensive tackle of the Denver Broncos gives back to the city he was raised in, and now calls his home up to five months a year: Toronto.

On Friday, through his Orlando Franklin Foundation and in conjunction with Community Housing, “Big O” brought busloads of at-risk Toronto children and teens to Playtime Bowl, near the Yorkdale Mall. There, some 116 kids from Malvern to Rexdale took part in Bowling For A Cause. (My photo of Big O with some of the kids, above)

The children, aged 10 to 17, rolled over 10-pins, ate some pizza, shared some laughs, high-fived often, and got to meet one of the five men whose job it is to protect Peyton Manning in NFL games.

The 6-foot-7, 330-pound Franklin, 26, has been giving back like this for two years now. He visits high schools. He shows up unannounced at playgrounds in his old rough-and-tumble neighborhood, Victoria Park and Sheppard, where he was raised in a Toronto Housing unit.

And Franklin is impacting lives. Like this.

ORLANDO

ORLANDO

“One of the best stories of my life was last year when I talked at (Blessed) Mother Teresa (Catholic School),” Franklin said on Friday. “There was this one girl who lived in a group home. It turns out this girl was a cutter. We’re going to leave her name out of it, but she was a cutter. She would cut herself.

“One of my best friends from childhood happened to work at this group home and noticed something different about that girl. And he sat her down and he was like, ‘Hey, how you doing? You’re acting differently the last two days.’

“And she said, ‘You know what? This guy named Orlando Franklin came to our school two days ago, and he shared his life story with the school. He was up there talking and, you know, I think I’m going to listen to this guy because he made it, even after everything he’s been through. He made it. So I don’t think I’m going to be cutting myself, or stuff like that, anymore.’”

Through his friend, Franklin remains in touch with the girl, 15.

“Stuff like that, hey, I’ll go talk to a million kids,” Franklin said. “If one kid hears me out like that, I’m happy. I’m definitely happy. She’s doing really good now.”

Toronto Police Sgt. Rod Chung attended Bowling For A Cause. Known as “Officer Rod,” he too gives his time to such charitable efforts. Chung marvels at Franklin’s big-heartedness.

Just last week, Chung said, Franklin showed up at his old neighbourhood with a box of fireworks, and lit up the sky at dusk for the kids, to celebrate Canada Day.

“I asked him why he did that,” Chung said. “He said, ‘I never saw fireworks when I was a kid.’”

Franklin was born in Kingston, Jamaica. He lived in Toronto from age 3 to 16, before moving to Delray Beach, Fla. He then starred at the University of Miami.

Denver drafted him two years ago in the second round, 46th overall. Already he’s one of the NFL’s best right tackles.

“If I would have had someone talk to me when I was younger, I would have been a Top 5 pick,” Franklin said. “That’s the attitude that I would have had. That’s why I’m motivated. I KNOW I can influence these kids, I know I can change some — make a little kid’s life that much better.”

And a man can’t well succeed at that if his police-booking photo is topping sportscasts.

NFL teams always hold their breath at this time of year, the six- or seven-week window when players are left entirely to their own devices, after two months of regimented spring workouts and before life-dominating training camp starts, now just two weeks away.

“This is my thing,” Franklin said. “What would I be if I’m talking to these kids, pushing the whole anti-bullying aspect of my foundation also, but I’m out there doing stupid things?

“Growing up in Toronto, I would see all these kids around me doing the wrong thing, but I would never have anybody come tell me how to do the RIGHT thing. So I feel it’s really important to come talk to these kids and let them know like, no matter what people said I was going to be, I became exactly what I WANTED to be in life. And they can do the exact same thing.”

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Why big-hearted Broncos big man Orlando Franklin is lifting up at-risk youths of Toronto

  1. Ross Grange

    Congrats to Orlando!! God bless you for your wonderful volunteer work and foundation and Go Broncos!

  2. Jennifer

    Orlando, I am so pleased that your tough journey has resulted in such a benevolent and giving attitude. From the many people whom you have met through this journey who offered you the same, it is heart-warming to see that their gifts to you were treasured. I am confident that you now see and understand that all those years ago, all those people reaching out to you did it willingly and out of true compassion. Now you have taken a torch and are reaching out. If more do so, collectively we will make the world a brighter place. GOD Bless you Sweetie.

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