This is Charles Burnham’s time of year. Standing on a slope at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Washington, he gazes down on a field as the Seattle Seahawks training camp practice takes shape. A formidable ex-linebacker who played at the University of Southern California and San Jose State, Burnham certainly enjoys checking in on the action below, but he doesn’t lose focus on what’s going on behind him, either.
That’s where Seahawks devotees who’ve come out to watch the 10 a.m. workout are lining up at a Starbucks concession stand. A $2 donation is requested for beverages that Starbucks provides free of charge, with all contributions going to Five Star Football. Like the nonprofit, A Better Seattle, which works to address local youth and gang violence, Five Star is part of an ongoing Starbucks/Seahawks alliance that promotes shared community values.
Burnham, who has been president of the Renton-based nonprofit since 2014, is rooting for a steady run on bottled Starbucks drinks. The more that move, the easier it’s going to be to fill in gaps in the budget he oversees. Last year, $6,587 came Five Star’s way, helping to pay for gear and scholarships. According to Erin Combs, manager of Starbucks Community Partnerships, that number has already been surpassed well in advance of the August 19 close of training camp this summer.
Practices began this week and Burnham is expecting a healthy turnout in line with the 210 boys and girls who were on the Five Star team rosters last year.
Five Star’s mission is to improve physical fitness, enhance coordination, build self-esteem and teach kids how to work within a group, manage time and responsibilities. On a more basic level, the goal is for everyone to run around and enjoy themselves.
“If you approach with the attitude that we’re going to have a real good time, but we’re going to learn and we’re going to develop, it’s so much more fun,” said Burnham. “Some of the adults get into trouble with youth sports when it becomes more about them and less about the kids. Five Star has not won a single championship at any level since I’ve been there, but the program keeps growing because people see what we’re doing.”
“We’re not a big winning program,” added Burnham. “But they see the progression and they start to believe in what you’re teaching and they come back.”