Thanks to our partnership with Dreambuilders, a non-profit organization that works with athletes to provide financial, physical and mental health support for kids with challenges, my team recently spent the morning working with St. Louis Cardinals rookie outfielder Dylan Carlson on a winter coat & gear drive. We joined the staff at Hickey Elementary School to provide warm coats and other winter gear to more than 250 local students in need. The greater St. Louis area is one our largest concentrations of members, so it was extra meaningful to be able to directly impact the lives of many of the members who we have the privilege to serve.
In between distributing coats, I asked Dylan what drove him to participate in this event, and he explained that giving back to the community has always been important to him, but the pandemic's impact on families with school-age children really hit home. When he was a child, he met a professional athlete, and it inspired him to become one himself, so he wanted to pay it forward. His kindness and sincerity shown through, and it was fun to watch the children's excitement when they met him.
I also spent time talking with Principal Baird, who described Hickey Elementary as a neighborhood school, meaning that a significant number of students walk to school daily. In addition, many are from displaced families and don't have access to basic winter necessities like warm winter coats and gloves. On the coldest days, many of these children stay home because the lack of appropriate clothing puts them at risk for frostbite or even hypothermia.
If the pandemic made one thing clear, it's that in-person learning is critical – especially for underserved populations. And it goes beyond learning. The majority of students at Hickey Elementary are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. For many, getting to school and having a nutritious lunch makes all the difference to their growth.
I'm so grateful we could be a part of the event and help these children focus on learning without the distraction of being cold or hungry. I look forward to more partnership opportunities with Dreambuilders in the future.
Chief Executive Officer, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Missouri