New Orleans native Jennifer Hale, in her sixth season covering the NFL on FOX and will call Sunday’s game between the Falcons and the Seahawks, has teamed up with longtime friend and former Atlanta Falcons center Todd McClure to assist an elementary school in his hometown that was severely impacted in the recent, historic flooding in the Baton Rouge, La., area. Hale and McClure’s friendship dates back to their days at LSU, when he played football and she was a cheerleader. Hale reached out to McClure to offer assistance from her foundation, Sideline Pass, to Copper Mill Elementary School in his hometown of Zachary, La. Below is a Q&A with Hale regarding their partnership and background on Sideline Pass.
FOX SPORTS: What inspired you to found Sideline Pass?
Hale: “Throughout my career, I’ve always enjoyed getting involved with various charities – especially those founded by athletes and coaches, given my love of sports. There are so many impactful groups accomplishing amazing things, especially in New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. However I felt strongly that there was a void in something specifically aimed at girls and young women. Fifteen months ago, I started Sideline Pass to mentor young women — specifically athletes and those in foster care. It’s really a fun story: for years I had volunteered to emcee charity events for Saints running back Pierre Thomas. When his time in New Orleans was up, he offered to help me start my dream foundation under the umbrella of his I Can Foundation. Even though Pierre was leaving New Orleans, he still wanted to have a connection to the city and help youth here. It was the perfect arrangement. Our board and mentors love what we’ve been able to do with Sideline Pass, and we have lots of plans for the future. I know that for myself – navigating the pressures, expectations and challenges of being a professional female has certainly been a learning curve. And I’m in my 30’s! Today’s world must be very confusing and frustrating in many ways for young girls. Hopefully our Sideline Pass mentors can share and encourage them in how best to handle those situations effectively, but also with class and grace.”
FOX SPORTS: You’ve teamed up with former Atlanta Falcons center Todd McClure to assist a flooded school in Baton Rouge. Tell us a little bit about how you met Todd.
Hale: “Todd and I both attended LSU at the same time – he played football and I cheered. One of my favorite aspects of my job as a NFL on FOX sideline reporter is getting to keep up with my LSU folks around the league. Todd played 14 years with the Atlanta Falcons, so he’s one of the LSU guys that I’ve known the longest.”
FOX SPORTS: Tell us about you and Todd McClure partnering to help in his hometown.
Hale: “The historic floods that swamped Baton Rouge this August took everyone by surprise. Normally people have warning and there is heavy news coverage leading up to an event like this, but this was a sneak attack, so to speak, by Mother Nature. I was in Lake Tahoe when it started and really was shocked at the news I was hearing from back home. It was so sudden, and I wondered if the reports were exaggerated. I started looking for any information I could find to get an accurate picture of what was really happening. Todd has now retired from the NFL and is back home with his family in South Louisiana. I saw his tweets about how horrendous the devastation was in Zachary, and I asked how I could help.”
FOX SPORTS: What was the condition of Copper Mill Elementary when Todd contacted you? What were the school’s biggest needs?
Hale: “Copper Mill, its student body and its teachers/faculty suffered a terrible blow. The school is up and running, but so many people lost so much. We have 33 students who lost absolutely everything: homes, clothes, vehicles. The most immediate needs are clothing for the students.”
FOX SPORTS: What is Sideline Pass doing to assist the school?
Hale: “Sideline Pass is adopting Copper Mill Elementary for the long term, at Todd’s suggestion. It’s not just a one-time supply drop. We want to be a resource for the students for the next two years. As too many of us know from Hurricane Katrina, recovery from an all-encompassing disaster like this takes a long time. It’s unfortunately not a situation that has a quick fix. The help and outreach from across the country has been amazing – we thank everyone so much! But the reality is – many people outside of Louisiana will forget/move on mentally from this long before the region is truly back on its feet. So we want to make sure Sideline Pass is there for Copper Mill and its students until it’s truly 100% recovered. Sideline Pass is providing the aforementioned supplies/clothing needs for students, thanks to partnerships with the Home Shopping Network and AKD Law Firm, which is located in New Orleans. A company called Leisure Arts with Martha Adams joined us as well, providing therapeutic books and art projects for students and teachers. Sideline Pass is dedicating part of our annual Holiday Toy Drive to fulfilling students’ wish lists, as money is tight for many families working to rebuild. We’re also hoping to use this opportunity to get technology back in students’ hands, such as iPads, computers, etc – in addition to the ‘fun’ items on their wish lists.”
FOX SPORTS: How many kids attend the school?
Hale: Copper Mill has 826 students in fifth and sixth grades.”
FOX SPORTS: How would you describe Todd McClure?
Hale: “Todd is a very dedicated and loyal person who loves South Louisiana and his community of Zachary. He’s truly a champion for his hometown. It’s really no surprise if you look at how he related to his teammates over the years. He’s always been beloved and a locker room ‘glue guy.’ He has been a powerful force in organizing relief efforts in Zachary and has been instrumental in connecting the dots for those who want to help and those who need it most.”
FOX SPORTS: Tell us a little bit about Sideline Pass’s upcoming projects this year.
Hale: “Sideline Pass’ goal is to host one outreach a month where we expose our mentees to a new activity and our mentors have a chance to visit with them about their life goals and plans to attain those goals. We do things like play tennis, go rock climbing, host dance clinics and other forms of exercise. A few of our premiere events include:
- Holiday Toy Drive (which benefits our foster girls and this year Copper Mill Elementary)
- Project Prom (where we take our older foster girls shopping for prom dresses and accoutrements)
- Scholars Dinner (where we take our older foster girls out to a dinner in a formal setting where they receive both an etiquette lesson and advice on college applications, deadlines, funding, etc.)
- Back To School Shopping Spree: we partner with Academy Sports and Harper’s Hope Foundation (Saints player Roman Harper’s Foundation) to get our girls the necessary equipment to participate in various sports teams and activities the upcoming year. You’d be shocked how many run with toes cut out of old tennis shoes or without sports bras etc. We try to equip them with those tools.)”
FOX SPORTS: How does Sideline Pass obtain its primary funds?
Hale: “We don’t require much in terms of cash funds. We operate mainly off of in-kind donations. We have been so blessed to have so many business owners (mostly female!) offer to host a monthly outreach at no cost, such as rock climbing at The Boulder Lounge (owned by Kelsey Confreda) and ‘surfing; at Nola City Surf (owned by Becky Hardin). Women have come out of the woodwork to support us! This year’s Scholar’s Dinner will be at The French Library – owned by Jabari and Katrina Greer. Jabari used to play for the Saints, and Katrina reached out offering their help for an event. We do fundraise to provide healthy snacks at our outreaches and to find Project Prom. Other than that, everything is a donated service or good. Last year, we did a formal sit down dinner at English Turn Country Club to raise the funds for Project Prom.”
Donations can be sent to:
1519 Tchoupitoulas St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter is in Seattle and joins Noah Coslov to compare this year’s start to last year’s and get into how the Falcons will attack the Seahawks’ defense on Sunday.
GAME FIVE: Falcons 23, Broncos 16
GAME FOUR: Falcons 48, Panthers 33
GAME THREE: Falcons 45, Saints 32
GAME TWO: Falcons 35, Raiders 28
GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24