Points of Light Honors Giants Player Victor Cruz with a Daily Point of Light Award
Millions of NFL fans know Victor Cruz as a record-setting wide receiver for the New York Giants who punctuates his touchdowns – three just this past Sunday – by salsa dancing in the end zone, moves he learned from his grandmother.
To young people throughout the New York area, Cruz is something more important: As a native of Paterson, N.J., Cruz is a genuine local hero. In 2010 – his first year as a pro player and Giant – Cruz created the Victor Cruz Foundation, which encourages kids to become physically and academically active and to stick with their goals.
“There are so many bad influences or distractions kids have to avoid if they want to succeed,” Cruz says. “Staying in school and getting good grades are the best ways for kids to improve their futures.”
For his dedication to the next generation, today in New York Points of Light recognized Cruz with a Daily Point of Light Award. (Nominate someone you know here.) Newsday's Tom Rock noted, "Victor Cruz has been a star in the NFL for a few years now, but today he officially became a Point of Light."
During the event, part of the One America national volunteer service tour, Cruz joined Fox News contributor Dana Perino, Rockette Karilyn Surratt and others for a discussion about how Americans can make a difference when they set aside their differences.
Cruz knows firsthand that when people come together for the sake of a child, that child's chances to have a better life improve remarkably.
"I’m truly grateful to all the people who helped me in my journey – my family, friends, coaches, teachers, teammates, and others – and I want all kids to have access to the same kind of support network that I did," Cruz says. "I also want kids to avoid some of the adversity I had to overcome."
As he recounts in his many talks to young people, and in his newly published autobiography, “Out of the Blue,” Cruz grew up in a low-income, single-parent household. He was raised in his grandparents’ apartment by his mother and experienced the tragedy of his father’s suicide.
He excelled at football throughout high school, but soon learned that his ability was not a magic ticket out of poverty. He attended the University of Massachusetts, but became ineligible to play football because he was struggling academically. Despite being sent home three times because of low grades, Cruz was determined to succeed. In his junior year, he improved his grades enough to play – eventually going pro.
“In high school and college, I struggled a lot with academic challenges,” Cruz says. “If kids growing up today receive better guidance about the importance of school than I got, they might be able to avoid some of those struggles.”
Through his foundation work, Cruz emphasizes to young people that his NFL fame is not the result of one great year – 2011, when he set Giants franchise records and helped lead the team to a Super Bowl title – but a lifetime of hard work.
Beyond the foundation, Cruz is also active in the NFL’s Play 60 campaign, which encourages children to be physically active for at least 60 minutes a day. He donates food to and serves meals at an anti-poverty center in Paterson. He has participated in White House events for kids, including a science fair, and was asked by President Obama to help influence kids to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math. (Cruz says he focuses on those careers, because they represent stable jobs with good pay.)
Cruz is working to establish the Cruz Clubhouse at the Boys & Girls Club of Paterson & Passaic, which will aim to improve students’ readiness for college. For his community efforts, Cruz received the Sports Award from Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Cruz also touched a community and the nation last year when he learned on Twitter that he was the football idol of 6-year-old Jack Pinto, who was killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and was buried in a Cruz replica jersey. Cruz visited Jack’s family the week before Christmas.
“It was such an emotional experience that it’s still hard to talk about,” says Cruz. “I knew that if I had any ability to ease the Pinto family’s grief, even if just for a moment, I had a responsibility to act. After that experience, I resolved to do everything I could to use my celebrity to help others. As a celebrity, I am in the unusual position of having a lot of people interested in what I do and say. That’s a huge responsibility, but it gives me an amazing opportunity to use this platform to make a difference.”
To nominate someone in your life for a Daily Point of Light Award, visit pointsoflight.org/dailypointoflight, and recognize him or her on Twitter using #MyPointofLight. For more on the One America tour, visit facebook.com/joinoneamerica.