Redskins long-snapper Nick Sundberg has teamed up with the Redskins Charitable Foundation to spread a new laundry program to local schools in need.
The effort of the “Loads of Love” program is a noble one, aimed at providing underprivileged and at-risk children with clean clothes, to embolden them with the confidence to attend school each day.
Studies have shown if children don’t have a way to wash their clothes at home, they may not go at all. Loads of Love is trying to stop that thinking dead in its tracks, by supplying schools with laundry centers — washers, dryers, detergent, bags, etc. — to ensure children can at least have the chance to learn.
As Redskins Charitable Foundation put it, “Clean clothes should never be a barrier to student achievement.”
“We’re basically piloting the program right now in three elementary schools in Maryland,” Sundberg told 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier. “We’re at Magnolia, Valley View and Andrew Jackson, and we’re also in two Sasha Bruce shelters in D.C.”
“My wife came across this study where an organization put washers and dryers in three elementary schools in LA, and three elementary schools in Missouri,” Sundberg explained.
“And they went to the schools and asked for a list of their most at-risk kids — if they had any homeless kids, any kid that’s on free and reduced lunch, all the kids with the most unexcused absences — and they put them in this program where basically they can bring in a load of laundry every single day of the school year.”
“Drop it off in the morning, and somebody from the PTA who volunteers to come in, somebody in the front office on some downtime, or a teacher on their off-period, volunteers to throw the load in the washer,” he said. “And then somebody else comes in, throws it in the dryer. Somebody else comes in and folds laundry.”
“Well, at the end of the day, these kids come in and pick up their washed and folded clothes,” he said. “And, miraculously, they saw an almost 90-percent increase in grades, and over 90-percent increase in attendance, and, just looking at those numbers, if it’s that easy to get kids to go to school, then I felt like we were doing a disservice to kids in our community by not having a program like this.”
Sundberg approached the Redskins Charitable Foundation with the idea a little over a year ago, offering to front the money for the pilot year to see the program off the ground.
“Let’s just see if this is possible and see if we can make some difference,” is how he remembers pitching the idea. “If we get 20 percent of the numbers that this other program got, then it’s a giant success. If kids are going to school 20 percent more than they were before, then that’s huge.”
“I really couldn’t have done any of this without the Redskins Charitable Foundation,” he said. “They went so far above and beyond where I thought that this would end up in a little over a year.”
“We want to take this program and get some data, and hopefully, through it, we can get kids to start going to school a little more often,” he explained.
In talking with local school districts, Sundberg learned many schools request washers and dryers for this very reason, but their requests are denied.
“When we originally reached out to [Prince George’s] County to ask if we could start in their school district, they were ecstatic,” he said. “And the first thing they said was, ‘Yes. The number one thing that we ask for — through all our schools, regardless of high school, middle school, elementary school — is washers and dryers, that we don’t get.’ And that blew my mind. I’ve never heard that before.”
Another systemic problem Sundberg discovered through his outreach, schools which require uniforms have an outsized proportion of children with unexcused absences.
“This isn’t just a problem in schools where kids wear their own clothes,” he said. “There’s a huge issue in schools that require a uniform. Because a lot of times, kids are only issued two polos and a pair of pants. Well, if they don’t wear the required uniform to school, they have to sit in detention all day and it counts as an unexcused absence.”
“If we can try to curb that by just making washers and dryers available to them at their school, I think it could be really, really cool,” Sundberg said.
Redskins Charitable Foundation is accepting donations for Loads of Love: “You can earmark if for this program to where, if you give 100 bucks, it goes toward helping put a washer and dryer in a school in this area.”
Local schools can apply for a grant from Loads of Love, or simply inquire about the program’s blueprint, in case they want to implement the program inside their walls but haven’t an idea where to begin.
Schools needs to launch the program vary; some need washers and dryers, while others may need electrical work, plumbing work or an HVAC system. Loads of Love is forthcoming with its information.
“Here’s how you do it,” Sundberg said. “Here’s the blueprint.”
In the end, all that matters is the children, and giving them a chance to learn and grow.