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49ers great Ronnie Lott leverages fame to fight poverty

49ers great Ronnie Lott leverages fame to fight poverty
49ers great Ronnie Lott leverages fame to fight poverty 03:24

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Ronnie Lott won four Super Bowls with the 49ers but, in his retirement, the former safety has led a huddle of generosity for the last 33 years.

"You got all these incredible stars but you also have people with big hearts," Lott said.

The NFL Hall of Famer and his wife, Karen, harness that star power to break the cycle of poverty.

They started the Santa Clara-based nonprofit All Stars Helping Kids in 1989. It helps grow innovative nonprofits that serve disadvantaged young people.

All Stars has given more than $30 million in seed money and coaching to more than 600 organizations.

Lott said his game plan is to level the playing field for underserved kids.

"How do you allow people to know they can fit in? A lot of people of color, they've never had a chance to fit in," Lott explained. "We've been able to play our role in helping a lot of young people see that there are people out there that care."

All Stars has reached nearly 160,000 children in the last decade alone. Lott remembers one  high school student  who now works in high tech at Hewlett Packard.

"I remember bumping into him in Redwood City and I was sitting there going, 'What are you doing?' He goes, 'I'm working at HP,' and I'm like, 'Whoa!'" Lott recalled.

Lott's community service also includes being on the board of selectors at Multiplying Good, the national foundation that partners with KPIX to honor unsung heroes with Jefferson Awards.

His passion for community service comes from his mom and dad, a military recruiter.

Wherever they moved, they would make it point to help others in need.

"I learned early on that 'you're in the game, Ronnie, no matter what you say.' And that's my dad and that's my mom," Lott said.

Just as past 49ers have inspired him, he's encouraging a new generation of fans and players to pay it forward.

"We're starting to see some of the younger players participating, being involved," Lott noted. "When you huddle with the right people, there are amazing things you can get done."

That's a winning play on and off the field.

Note: All Stars Helping Kids is now accepting applications for its 2023 cohort.

Nonprofit startups selected to the program receive cash, coaching, connections and help with growing its capacity.


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