GCHS grad, football standout goes to bat for local community

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Messenger file photo by Chris McCarthy

2009 Gadsden City graduate Dre Kirkpatrick has accomplished much in his life, ranging from playing for and winning a national championship with University of Alabama to starting with the Cincinnati Bengals and now the Arizona Cardinals.
Getting a COVID-19 vaccination was a decision he could have never anticipated having to make, but he concluded that his love for his family, friends and community outweighed his hesitations.
“As a professional athlete, I have to focus a lot on my health,” shared Kirkpatrick. “I’m careful about what I eat, I’m intentional in my workouts to make sure I’m avoiding injuries, and I take it very seriously. I did a lot of research and talked to my healthcare team and my family. I definitely had concerns, but the reward outweighed the risk.”
Kirkpatrick (pictured above) received his vaccination this week, noting that he could not sit by and watch more loved ones become sick and potentially die without doing everything that he could to be a part of the solution.
Kirkpatrick is no stranger to helping in the community. His 21 Kids Foundation has been promoting health and wellness to children in the Gadsden area for the past several years. The foundation has provided new back-to-school clothing and shoes, football camps and mentor sessions to encourage students to work hard at academics and attendance while being active and eating healthy. As a result of COVID-19, the 21 Kids Foundation has taken on a new project to expand factual information about the virus and available vaccinations.
“Under Dre’s leadership, the foundation is working to reach underserved populations that may not have access to legitimate, accurate information,” said Charlotte Worthy, director of 21 Kids Foundation. “We are developing flyers and video productions to help spread that word, and we’re also making sure that our materials are available in Spanish so that our Hispanic community has direct access.”
Foundation board members are partnering with other organizations to conduct door-to-door canvasing, keeping social-distancing and masking protocols in place to ensure further protection against the Delta variant that is posing a new threat throughout the United States. The efforts are being funded by a grant through the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Partnering with the foundation include Quality of Life Health Services, Alpha Kappa Alpha Lambda Eta Omega Sorority and The Chamber of Commerce of Gadsden & Etowah County.
“In the end, I want people to make the decision for themselves, but I want them to make it with as much true information as possible,” said Kirkpatrick. “There’s just too much misinformation circulating, especially in underserved communities.”
“Gadsden is fortunate to have such a success story like Dre, but our blessing is that he hasn’t forgotten us,” said Worthy. “His servant’s heart brings him back home to do good work in our community, and this new endeavor is just the latest example. I know Dre had to overcome a lot of fear and uncertainty to get vaccinated, just like a lot of people in our community. His willingness to be a leader on this really tough issue is a testament to just how much he loves his hometown.”
21 Kids Foundation may be able to help individuals in need of transportation to and from appointments to receive vaccinations and will be partnering with Quality of Life to bring vaccination clinics to parts of the community where residents may not have easy access to transportation or healthcare facilities.
For more information on assistance available, visit https://www.drekirk21kids.com/lets-huddle-campaign or call 211 First Call For Help by dialing 211 from any land line or cell phone. The public is also encouraged to take a short service located on the aforementioned website.
Submitted by the Chamber, Gadsden and Etowah County

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