“Won’t you be my neighbor –” is a line from the old Mr. Rogers Neighborhood theme song that has been taken literally and put to good use by a caring and philanthropic Pensacola husband and wife team. Fred and Tia Robbins started a career and football development youth camp in 2014 called The Game Plan Camp where they had over 65 9-12th grade student-athletes participate from Escambia and Santa Rosa schools. The Robbins quickly realized a greater need for more ongoing services for the youth they were serving so their reaction was to establish Mr Robbins Neighborhood (MRN) as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in 2015.
Pensacola is a hotbed for development of professional athletes. One of these is former Super Bowl champion and retired NFL defensive tackle, Fred Robbins. He began his 12-year football career drafted by the Minnesota Vikings. He went on play for the NY Giants and St Louis Rams until he retired back to his hometown of Pensacola in 2012 with his wife and two children.
Although Pensacola has developed several professional athletes, for every success story there are many more stories of young and talented athletes that have had their dreams derailed with no alternate plan. Less than 1% of high school athletes achieve a professional sports dream. Many of these athletes were not gaining a deeper perspective of success outside of athletics and their academic development was not fully cultivated. Mr. Robbins Neighborhood was the solution that Fred and Tia Robbins devised based on their knowledge of navigating the sports industry to help youth develop business prowess for success both on and off the field. The organization is rooted in the effort to broaden the landscape of what inspiration, dreams, and goals can look like for the youth of Pensacola by providing support in athletics to allow them to achieve their full potential as an athlete and a student. Tia Robbins noted, “The overall vision of our organization is to prepare student athletes for future opportunities beyond sports. We are passionate about our work.”
Currently, MRN holds a year round academic and professional development program for student athletes called The Playbook, which is an extension of their three-day Game Plan Camp. The participants receive guidance on five foundational principles including ACT Test prep, college readiness tools, activities dedicated to academic, professional, and life skills development. Jayde Herman, program director for MRN stated, “The organization has served over 125 students through both of our programs to date.” She continues, “We have brought awareness to the community about the difficulties that student-athletes face. We encourage everyone to support MRN and to get involved by making a donation, attending our fundraisers, or by becoming a guest speaker, tutor, mentor, or volunteer.” Jayde further noted, “The future for area student-athletes looks brighter because of MRN and the way we have been supported by the community. Future plans include expanding our reach and growing our programs to equip student-athletes with a game plan for success on a national level.”
Q&A with Fred and Tia Robbins – Founders of Mr. Robbins’ Neighborhood
Why were you led to start MRN?
Fred: Talented, underprivileged student-athletes are suffering academically in my hometown and ineligible to receive scholarships or entry for a college education. Their post-high school opportunities are dismal because they have no skill or trade to qualify for a good job, earn a decent salary, and become a contributing member to society. I want to play a big role in changing that outcome through our programs.
How did you come up with the name MRN?
Tia: A national sports radio station was taking an online poll from fans to find out which NY Giants player they wanted to hear from and a fan answered back, “Mr. Robbins’ Neighborhood please”, referring to my husband, Fred Robbins. That name stuck. It was perfect. It represented the community and support system we wanted to create for student-athletes. And of course, we loved the fact that the name is similar to Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. We grew up watching his show.
How is MRN funded?
Fred and Tia: We plan two major fundraisers (Casino Night and Super Bowl Bonanza) a year to support our two programs, The Game Plan Camp and our year-round program the Playbook. We also receive financial support from some awesome Individuals, our board members, local and national businesses, private foundations, and local organizations.
What has been the most rewarding part of your time at MRN?
Fred and Tia: The most rewarding part is hearing from our parents and students that our programs and resources have made a difference in the way they think about their future and the future of their child.
Is there a specific success story you can share?
Tia: Our organization has opened up the doors for many students. One that sticks out most is Myles Meteye. Myles participated in our camp and year-round program, where he learned about trade jobs and certifications. At our Career Development workshop he had the opportunity to hear from and network with Chris Jaubert, Partner at Bear Contracting. After graduating high school without athletic scholarship offers, Myles applied and was accepted into the Tulsa Welding School, where he finished this year. Recently, Myles reached out to Mr. Jaubert with the news of his Professional Welder certification, and interest in seeking opportunities. We are happy to say, that Myles is currently working on construction projects that Mr. Jaubert has helped him secure.
October 6 – Super Bowl Bonanza to benefit the year long program for student-athletes, The Playbook. It will be held at the Cordova Lanes Bowling Center from 5-9 p.m. We are looking to recruit 24 bowling teams who believe in our mission. Join in on the fun for a great cause, there will be a live DJ and awesome raffle prizes.
Winter event – 3rd Annual Breakfast with Fred Claus in December, dates TBA Spring event – 3rd Annual Casino Night Fundraiser in May, dates TBA