Buritto Project

Check out the official Buritto Project write up

Former Utes give back to community

Former Utah football players embrace giving during the holiday season

Shop With Sly was back once again taking over the Target in Fort Union, Utah early Tuesday morning bringing holiday cheer to children who would have otherwise had very little if anything for Christmas. In the fourth year of the program founder and former Ute linebacker Stevenson Sylvester teamed up with fellow former Utes Dallin Rogers and Matt Martinez to create Athletes Stronger Together Organization in an effort to bring other current and former Utah athletes together to do good in the community that fostered and cheered for their dreams in college.“It really shows us growing as a people and I love it,” Sylvester said of his and his teammate’s combined efforts. “The kids have such a great time at this event. I love taking these guys around and shopping. I really love getting involved, I really love getting the alumni involved because it does so much for them. We used to do it so much as college athletes so when we are done with college we don’t get to do it as much. I love how much it’s grown, the kids love it each and every year. I try to use a different program every year so I kind of get everybody involved.”

The program Sly took shopping this year was K.O.P.P.I.R (Kids of Parents and People in Recovery), which deals with children who have parents dealing with addictions giving them a safe haven and voice while their parents/caregivers seek the help they need. “I really got hooked up with them through Dallin Rogers,” Sylvester said. “Through his FitCon he’s been handling a lot of the kids in recovery and he brought them to my attention. Of course with my background of being around foster families and kids really had a special place in my heart- those kids who get left out with the foster families because my mom is a social worker I’ve really been around them a lot. This is really easy for me to say ‘yes, of course let’s do those kids’.”

Rogers first connected with K.O.P.P.I.R during his junior year with the Utes after a chance meeting one day after practice. “The week that they were there my father had just been admitted there full time in patient rehab,” Rogers said. “Then I found out these were kids of parents and people in recovery and I went up and talked to them afterwards and ever since then we have been doing a different service project for them around Christmas time on a small scale. Usually we help out one to two of the kids. Buy them Christmas, have a Christmas dinner, things like that. This year Matt, Sly and I decided to team up and just make this thing huge. Instead of doing three kids we wanted to do 30-35.”

The nearly 40 kids the guys took shopping for Christmas were not the only benefactors of their kindness. Together they ran four days worth of charity events helping hundreds of people in need. “I own and operate FitCon,” Rogers explained. “I ran a smaller fitness expo and donated 100% of the ticket sales to fund the shopping excursion. That was Saturday. The previous Thursday we donated Christmas trees, lights, ornaments, tree stands and presents to foster kids. Friday we did a coat drive and rolled over six hundred meals [with the Burrito Project] for the homeless and went downtown to Rio Grande and handed out coats and meals to the homeless down there. That’s been our week and it was capped off with Shop With Sly.”

Martinez says his and his teammates’ desire to be a positive light in their community all stems from one place- Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. “Coach Whitt recruits character. That’s basically what it boils down to,” he said. “In all aspects of what he does we did a lot of service projects, we went and spoke to schools, his secretary Helen is awesome. I was kind of on her speed dial going through the program when she needed an extra guy to go talk to. Giving back and being able to touch these young kids and people that look up to the student athletes as icons is just awesome.”

Martinez continued saying what makes an event like Shop With Sly so special is its ability to make everyone who participates appreciate what they have. “Today was awesome and it really opened my eyes,” Martinez said. “What it really does is make you- gives you perspective of your own life and what you have, how blessed we all are. There were a few parents who were almost in tears because we were able to help out and provide Christmas for their kids.”

The magnitude of what Sylvester, Rogers, and Martinez accomplished with special help from the Unified Fire Authority and Salt Lake Police Department was not lost on the founders of K.O.P.P.I.R Holly Henson and Shannon Rapp who could not contain their joy that so many of the families they work with were able to receive such generosity. “Incredible. Especially, some of these kids- they probably would not get toys otherwise,” Rapp said. “They might get socks and underwear, you know, things that they really need, but not toys so to watch them walking out of here- to watch the cops holding these bags of toys, that was so cute. This is the stuff that the holiday season is all about.”

Having so many “heroes” in tow that the kids look up to from the former athletes, to the firefighters and police officers didn’t hurt either and made the day that much more memorable. “It’s huge,” Rapp said. “I read somewhere and I don’t remember who said it that it only takes one person to change a kid’s life, or a person’s life. Having a role model, somebody to look up to can be the biggest inspiration in a child’s life.”

Realizing that he is and being that role model is something Sylvester takes seriously and wishes other athletes would take more seriously as well. “As role models- we definitely are role models whether you like it or not we are role models,” he said. “I know Charles Barkley used to say ‘I’m not a role model’ yes, you are. You want to be on T.V? You want to be recognized for the things you say? You are a role model. That’s exactly what this does and coach Whitt really instilled that in us as soon as we got out of high school. I really commend coach Whitt for making it a precedence in college.”

It is Rogers’ hope that he, Martinez and Sylvester can help change the current perspective on athletes which typically focuses on the more negative aspects even though there are more doing good than bad. “That’s obviously pretty easy to report on because people want to know that and I think a lot of times that gets over-shadowed by the amount of good people and good athletes that are in programs,” he said. “We believe that by fostering this environment where athletes can showcase that and give back, hopefully that will show people we aren’t just a bunch of dumb athletes. We are actually trying to make our community better.”

Naturally no Christmas shindig would be complete without a Santa. Ed “Waso” Esparza is a long-time Ute fan and friend of Sylvester’s who is no stranger to charity work himself having spent over 20 years working with Angel Hands- a group that helps families with children who have rare diseases. He couldn’t help but beam when talking about Sylvester and the other athletes saying the work they do outside of their respective sports is what makes it so easy for him for him to be a fan.

“It makes it more special that a lot of them do this stuff,” Esparza said. “To see what they have become besides a football player- to help the community- the community that cheered for them and now they are paying it back to me is awesome. Some of them that moved here and stayed here and are giving back to this community- to me it’s very special.”

Giving a child hope and happiness even for a moment is what makes it all worth it for Esparza and why he couldn’t say ‘no’ when Sylvester asked for help. “When they come running up to Santa Claus and want a hug without me asking- Santa scares some kids but some kids love Santa and will do that,” he said. “The smiles on their face- you can’t buy that stuff.”

Habitat For Humanity Project

Check out the official Good4Utah article on this project.

Highland Mother and Widow Embraces Help from Little Miracles After Multiple Tragedies

HIGHLAND, Utah (ABC4 News) A widow and mother of five boys has found new reasons to smile after a foundation helped to give her home a well-deserved makeover.

Patti Platt Hamblin of Highland has had more than her share of tragedies. As the oldest child of 13, Hamblin first experienced extreme grief after the loss of her 2-year-old brother when she was only eight. In 2008 Hamblin lost her husband Michael, leaving her to raise her boys on her own.

Then at the end of 2015, she lost her 27-year-son Trevor and her 2-year-old granddaughter Chaslyn, both within a week of each other.

Though Hamblin has tried throughout the years to keep her head up and stay motivated the loss of her son and granddaughter pushed her over the edge. Hamblin said the loss of a child is a grief unlike any other she had ever experienced.

Hamblin, a licensed mediator who is self-employed and a full time student working towards her masters in clinical mental health counseling, said working on the things like repairs and painting around the house became overwhelming.

Knowing the struggle Hamblin was going through, her sister worked with Little Miracles Foundation to help bring her some well needed and long overdue help.

For two days straight, over 150 volunteers, including 50 members of the BYU football team, worked to fix up both the inside and the outside of Hamblin’s home.

From painting to landscaping, to building irrigation in the backyard to cutting, framing and sheet rocking, everyone worked around the clock as Hamblin stayed with her mother down the street.

Surrounded by her family, friends, neighbors and a lot of love, Hamblin got to see her home for the first time after the remodel on Saturday.

At a loss for words she toured her home and her yard. Hamblin knows the Little Miracles Foundation just helped make a very big miracle happen in her life.

Hamblin says she feels like this will help her with a fresh new start, a breath of fresh air, almost like a new birth.


If you would like to get involved with Little Miracles or would like to know more ways you can help, you can visit their website at  littlemiraclesutah.org.