CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Kids across the country have been given thousands of books to read thanks to the efforts of some current and former NFL players.
Chris Long and six other players have given out nearly 80,000 books in so far 2019 as part of the Chris Long Foundation's First Quarter for Literacy initiative.
This initiative is designed to get books to children in underserved neighborhoods and encourage families to engage through reading.
Since it was founded, it has raised more than $500,000 and helped nearly 16,000 children in eight states.
"First Quarter for Literacy was designed to raise awareness about the correlation between on-grade reading by fourth grade and long-term academic success, which directly impacts future likelihood of breaking the cycles of poverty," said Long. "The next step was to turn that awareness into action."
The initiative began when Long and his wife invested nearly one-quarter of Long's 2018 salary into promoting early literacy, resulting in 25,600 books for 5,000 children in the Philadelphia area.
But Long wanted to take the initiative national, so he challenged other NFL players to donate the first quarters of their salaries to it and then matching each player's donation up to $25,000 to distribute the books in their playing market or hometown.
This resulted in another 30,000 books being distributed to more than 150 schools and programs, helping more than 5,500 children.
The initiative has continued in Chicago, Los Angeles, rural Mississippi and Georgia.
In Virginia, Long's home state, the initiative inspired the Red Zone to End Zone challenge, to which Long donated $25,000 to provide five-book starter home libraries to more than 13,000 children.
Long retired from the NFL earlier this year after 11 years. He also used to play for the University of Virginia and St. Anne's-Belfield.
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