Christian McCaffrey, Shaq Thompson partner for "22 Together" initiative

22 Together

Christian McCaffrey and Shaq Thompson, who have shared the same locker room since 2017, are now teaming up off the field.

The Panthers' running back and linebacker on Monday launched "22 Together," an initiative designed to help unite Charlotte through sports programs for underserved youth.

In partnership with The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club of Greater Charlotte and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's Police Activities League (PAL), one of the main goals of "22 Together" is to make athletic programs more accessible. Another is to build bridges within the community through sports.

This is the second community initiative in the past few months led by McCaffrey, who in April started "22 and You" to support front line healthcare workers in the Carolinas during the COIVD-19 pandemic.

"After '22 and You' raised hundreds of thousands for our healthcare heroes in a matter of days, I was in awe of this community and what it can achieve when we work together," McCaffrey said. "Right now, it is important to make an effort to help our community work through the divisions that exist, and I believe sport can accomplish that.

"Sports for me have always been a place for opportunity and for building a strong sense of team. It is a place where we can communicate values and begin building a more peaceful society. When we come together on a field of play, it helps unite us everywhere else."

Thompson has also been active in the community for the past few months. Among his initiatives, he partnered with Atrium Health, Bojangles, and local restaurants to deliver 2,000 meals for healthcare workers in the Charlotte area. Now he's joining McCaffrey for another worthy cause.

"When Christian called to ask if I would support this program with him, it was an easy decision," Thompson said. "This is exactly what our community needs right now. Something positive, uniting members of our community and police in a focus on kids who will be left behind and will suffer most if we don't come together."

"22 Together" will launch with football, flag football, and cheerleading this fall, with the goal of expanding into other sports in the future. By making those programs free of charge, historically underserved youth will be able to participate with the mentorship of coaches from Charlotte-Mecklenburg PD and other community leaders.

"The Police Activities League of Charlotte is a program we're all very proud of," said Captain Tonya Arrington of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

"With the support of Christian, Shaq, and 22 Together, and partnering with the Boys and Girls Club, we can be united in our effort to reach more kids and, through them, have an even broader impact on our community, including for our officers who gain much from their experiences as mentors and coaches."

"We are so grateful for the support of 22 Together and particularly at this critical time when COVID-19 has left an added strain on our budget and resources," added Marty Clary, executive director of The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Charlotte.

"We know that when economic crises and other major events take place, the impact is felt most by our underserved populations. For that reason, we are grateful to Christian, Shaq and their program for recognizing the need to not only support our programs and the kids who participate in it, but reach all community members to work together for a more peaceful community."

Fundraising efforts to support "22 Together" will begin July 22. To learn more about the initiative, visit 22Together.org.

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