Alex Smith was the subject of the biggest quarterback controversy that no one saw coming when he was seamlessly replaced by Colin Kaepernick in the midst of the 49ers Super Bowl season. As with everything he’s endured during his tenure in San Francisco, he handled the situation with class and grace – even going so far as to coach Kaepernick himself – and has since been awarded the starting quarterback job with the rebuilding Kansas City Chiefs. Anyone who has watched the collective story of the Chiefs unfold over the past few years can only wish the best for Alex Smith, Andy Reid, and the entire organization as they embark on a new era.
A rather tumultuous existence on the field never stopped Alex from helping kids with tumultuous lives off the field, however. I first learned of Alex’s foundation back in 2009 when I read Between Sundays by Karen Kingsbury, a book about an NFL player who has his life changed by working with the foster care system. Alex wrote the foreword to the book and also assisted with information about life inside the NFL, as well as life for kids inside the foster care system.
He’s not well-informed about the foster care system because he had been forced to live through it as a child; he’s well-informed about the foster care system because he chose to learn about it and stand alongside kids in need of support as an adult. In 2005, after a visit to a residential school for foster care children in San Diego, Smith decided to pour his own money into the Alex Smith Foundation, which equips teens who are graduating out of the foster care system with long-term financial support to attend San Diego State University. As per the Foundations website, “by providing five-year scholarships, year round housing and extensive individual guidance and support, the Guardian scholars program provides the opportunity to change individual lives, realize true independence and reach their full potential.” Twenty-three out of the thirty total scholars who’ve been admitted entrance into the program have graduated successfully and are living markedly different lives than they would have ever had the opportunity to live otherwise.
The Foundation was recently honored for it’s success, especially in the way of financial integrity, by the Boston Globe:
Nonprofit specialists say a charitable foundation should funnel a minimum of 65 to 75 percent of proceeds to its cause. Of the 50 foundations the Globe examined, nearly half fell short of that standard. Meanwhile, Smith’s foundation spent 91 percent of its funds on its mission from 2008 to 2010, the time period from which the Globe examined IRS filings. A primary reason is because Smith has provided much of the funding.
Aside from donating a substantial amount of money, Smith also donates his time, pouring mentorship into the lives of the Foundation’s youth and traveling to speaking engagements to lobby on behalf of needed changes in the foster care system nationwide. Marquis Blount, a scholarship recipient, said of Smith’s devotion, “That blew me away […] It was amazing to see when he had time off that he was a part of the program. He was like an older brother, making sure we were doing OK.”
Kansas City, you deserve a great man leading your team, and you sure are getting one. Thanks for all you do, Alex!