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Ex-Penn Stater Allen Robinson uses foundation to help students get meals during pandemic

BRAD BIGGS
Chicago Tribune (TNS)
Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson (12) runs after a catch against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

CHICAGO – Allen Robinson has some workout equipment in his Northwest suburban home, so he’s been able to stay somewhat active during Chicago’s stay-at-home order.

The former standout wideout at Penn State also had time to act quickly with his Within Reach Foundation to help inner city families in need during the coronavirus pandemic, giving them something they can use now instead of waiting for the storm to pass.

Typically, Robinson’s charity operates with the goal of enhancing educational opportunities for low-income students, working to steer them toward a path to success. Robinson promotes reading and regularly volunteers time around the holidays.

Last week, Robinson’s foundation partnered with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to assist students who rely on daily meals at school but aren’t receiving them with CPS closed through at least April 21. The Bears wide receiver pledged to match the first $12,000 in donations. Left tackle Charles Leno and coach Matt Nagy quickly stepped up with money for the cause too.

“Just trying to make an impact anyway I possibly can,” Robinson said on Saturday. “As soon as we put out what we wanted to do, we started getting a ton of feedback and a ton of support. Being able to get that in a time like this is awesome because we’re just trying to help out the community.

Allen Robinson

“A lot of kids get meals and food, whether it’s a lunch program or whatever, they are able to get meals for breakfast, lunch and after school as well. Kids who aren’t going to school now aren’t able to get those meals so their parents or someone else has to try to provide those meals for them, and sometimes parents can’t afford to provide all of those.”

On Sunday morning, nearly $10,000 had been raised, bringing the foundation close to the total Robinson will match in less than a week’s time. Estimates are a $50 donation could provide 80 pounds of food.

Start of his foundation: Robinson started his foundation in 2016 before his third season in Jacksonville and well before he struck it big with a free-agent contract from the Bears. It was more about putting hi time into hands-on work in the community than just writing a check.

“I’ve always been fortunate to have a lot of good people around me,” Robinson said. “So, I was always being pushed in the right direction and I’ve always tried to be proactive to certain things whether it’s giving back, going to back to school programs or Christmas events.

“It’s not about me doing this. It’s trying to create a way for people to come together and make an impact. It’s not just me making an impact on my own. Everyone can make an impact.”

Reluctant to talk much about QB situation: The Bears’ voluntary offseason program was scheduled to begin April 20, but the NFL has put offseason plans – with the exception of the draft – on hold indefinitely. And given the Bears have yet to make their trade for quarterback Nick Foles official, it’s not surprising Robinson was reluctant to say much about the position considering Nagy hasn’t detailed publicly how things will be handled with the newcomer and Mitch Trubisky.

“In free agency, you see guys come to the team and leave the team and things like that,” Robinson said. “But it’s always exciting to bring new people along. For me, I don’t have any personal bias. I am just excited for us to try to bring pieces along that will help us add to our winning culture.”

Robinson did get Foles’ phone number from tight end Trey Burton, who is forever linked to Foles from Super Bowl LII.

“I had heard nothing but positive things about Nick from some of my former teammates in Jacksonville who played with him,” Robinson said. “I know it’s a new place for him, so I told him if he had any questions to feel free to reach out.”

Contract extension? A contract extension for the 26-year-old Robinson remains one of the top pieces of business for general manager Ryan Pace. The wide receiver is entering the final season of his $42 million, three-year contract he signed in 2018. He was one of the few bright spots in an anemic offense last season, catching 98 passes for 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns. His was just the fifth 1,000-yard season for a Bears receiver in the last 17 years.

It’s still premature to say if a deal will get done. Robinson is due to earn $13 million this season and has a salary cap figure of $15 million. The club could lower that figure and create more cap space with an extension. Understandably, Pace has had more timely matters to handle since the start of the new league year March 18. Moving forward, a deal for Robinson has to move to the front burner.

“Definitely optimistic,” Robinson said. “But optimistic or not, I am in Chicago and I think everybody pretty much knows where I stand and how I feel about Chicago. At the end of the day, whatever happens, happens. I only can control so much and that is to go out there and have myself prepared to play each and every Sunday. I can’t concern myself too much with what’s going on and different decisions that can and can’t be made. All of that is not in my control at all.”