As a child, Israel Idonije lay in bed at night and envisioned growing up to be “big and strong,” achieving success, and making a difference in the world. At 6’6” and 268 pounds (121.56 kilos), Idonije certainly is big as well as strong! Best known for his prowess as a 10-year veteran defensive player for the United States National Football League, Idonije’s “Dream Big” approach to life has him achieving goals and accomplishments beyond the NFL.
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, his family moved to Brandon, Manitoba, a small town west of Winnipeg, when the young Idonije was four years old. The oldest son of the family’s four children, his earliest memories are of helping his family serve in their local community. Idonije’s parents taught their children by example – establishing a charity that distributed food to people in need. His parents taught him the importance of a good education, as well as the values of charity, compassion, benevolence and humility.
Idonije understands that everybody, regardless of background or socio-economic status, has the ability to inject some level of positive change into his or her surrounding world. He believes he has a responsibility to help and serve others because of the tremendous platform of being an NFL player. In 2007, he started The Israel Idonije Foundation to help underprivileged children in Chicago, Winnipeg, Canada and West Africa…all the places he has called home. Thousands of children have benefitted from IIF’s programs.
Helping children is very near to Idonije’s heart and he lights up when talking about his charity work. As a child, an anonymous sponsor provided memberships to the local YMCA for Izzy and his siblings. Idonije loved going to the Y and even became a youth leadership counselor while in high school. His goal for Team IIF’s programs are to turn on the light inside the children so they can see their potential, create a plan for their lives, set goals, and make good decisions that will lead them to better circumstances. Idonije plans to continue growing The Foundation long after his football career is over.
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