For Charles Harris, giving back to his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, is important.
“I feel like a lot of people come from places and then never come back,” Harris said. “I feel like I’ve never seen an NBA or NFL player growing up in Kansas City versus other cities like ATL, L.A., St. Louis even, where you got a lot of athletes who are good or productive and always come back. I feel like it’s about time for Kansas City to have an athlete that actually comes back to the community, comes back to the city, to actually do stuff for the city.”
The 23-year-old Miami Dolphins defensive end is doing just that. Ahead of the University of Missouri’s pro day in March, he gave of his 14 former teammates who participated in the event a pair of new Jordans.
Harris is also an advocate for multiple sclerosis awareness. That’s because he watched his mother, Deborah Clark, battle with the disease that takes over the central nervous system and disrupts the flow of information between the brain and body.
“I wanted to bring attention to it,” Harris said. “Initially it started off as I just wanted to do something for my mom, with me wanting to make some dope cleats for my momma so she can have something to see.”
In December 2017, he participated in the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats campaign, which allows players to wear non-standard cleats to help raise money for charitable causes. He chose the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) December 1, 2017
“Growing up with Mom’s condition, she’s always reached out to an organization, she’s always asked for it, but they never reached back,” Harris said.
Now that he’s in the league, he believes he’s in a position to advocate for those affected by the disease and help his mother get the resources she needs. “I plan on doing bigger things with the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation this upcoming year. I got some things in the works, such as pledge where every time I get a tackle the money goes to the foundation.”
Harris’ desire to help his mother and his family doesn’t stop there. After being selected by the Dolphins as the 22nd overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft and signing a four-year, $11 million contract with a $6 million bonus, Harris decided to purchase a home for his mom in Tifton, Georgia.
“Back in August of last year, right after I got drafted, we started searching. I didn’t know where to put them, and I asked them, ‘Where do you all want to live?’ My grandmother is from Tifton, Georgia, and she was like, ‘I always wanted to go back to where I lived,’ back to the town where she grew up. I then asked my grandfather, and he was like, ‘I’ll go wherever your grandmother goes,’ and mom was like, ‘Shoot, I’ll go wherever they want to go.’
“I’m gonna say everyone has probably seen it as the thing you’re supposed to do, like buy your mom a crib, take care of your parents, all that kind of stuff,” Harris said. “From a budget standpoint, I was like, ‘Anything for my momma.’ I know I can make it back. It’ll also motivate me to make it back.”
He also surprised his mother with a personalized gift.
“I got her a Chrysler Pacifica too, 2018, the mobility van, so she can get around.”
Harris’ mother depended on a transportation service to attend her doctor’s appointments.
“It’s hard for them to have services that you would have versus the inner city, so for my mom to get around, they’d have to hire somebody else,” Harris said. “I made it to where she has the mobility van where she can just put a wheelchair in there and everything, so she can go out on her own versus having to depend on another car service.”
Harris’ work ethic kept him aware on the field, but off the field, he worried about his family.
“It’s kind of hard because it’s the first time having money and really being in the league, so it’s kind of hard for me to be away from home, knowing I just got paid, but I can’t do anything about it. Like my family, everybody’s still in their same situation,” he said.
He plans to launch his own foundation next year.