Super Bowl puts spotlight on philanthropist's life

Myra Kraft's good works inspire Patriots football players and the New England region.

Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters
New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft (at podium) speaks to the crowd as cheerleaders hold a framed picture with initials of his late wife, Myra, inscribed above an image of the team during a Super Bowl send-off event at Gilette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., Jan. 29. Myra Kraft has inspired Patriots players and many others with her work for charitable causes.

When New England Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored a touchdown in the American Conference championship game, he celebrated by pointing to the letters "MHK" sown onto his jersey, blew a kiss, and pointed skyward.

The gesture was aimed at honoring Myra Kraft, the wife of Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who passed on in July. The team, which will be trying to win its fourth Super Bowl title this Sunday, dedicated its season to the late Mrs. Kraft, who was known as a "hands on" philanthropist. Her charity work, much of it unpublicized, has come more to light since her passing in July and become an inspiration to the team and the region.

"One of the biggest hearts you can imagine. The things she did for people, it went beyond camera, and it wasn't all about the media," Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork was quoted as saying in an article about Myra Kraft at "She just did a lot for people. She wanted to be out in the community. With people that make a difference, going to the YMCA, Boys & Girls Club, going to these shelters, all the type of places that need help. She was right in the middle of it."

According to an appreciation in the Boston Globe, the Krafts have given more than $100 million to charities, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston; her alma mater, Brandeis University; and other organizations.

“She didn’t just write checks,’’ said Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz, who led a memorial service for Mrs. Kraft, but often worked hands on serving food to the needy or filling bags of clothes. “She was down in the trenches, doing real work for real people.’’

Among Myra Kraft's other accomplishments were raising funds for Boston College, College of the Holy Cross, the Harvard School of Education, and Harvard Medical School. She was also the national chair for the United Jewish Communities General Assembly.

Earlier this season the Patriots team presented Robert Kraft with a painting to honor Myra Kraft's life work. It shows several Patriots players lifting their arms to point to the initials "MHK." The bottom of the painting contains the words "DEDICATION." The team brought the painting, created by New England artist Brian Fox, with them to the Super Bowl site in Indianapolis.

Mrs. Kraft made a strong impression on Green-Ellis, who has risen from being undrafted free agent as a rookie to the team's starting running back. "She taught me about giving back to the community," Green-Ellis said in a Yahoo Sports article. "Anytime I get a chance now, I want to go and give back to the children in this area and helping in the community.”

"We play a game, but this game is really small in the grand scheme of life," says another Patriots player, special teams captain Matthew Slater, in the ESPN piece. "What she did was really shine a light on what's valuable, what's important. She really cared about her fellow human beings. She was so selfless in the way she carried herself. She had a great heart."

Robert Kraft added this about his wife: "She cared about people – all people," he said. "And doing random acts of kindness. I don't think there's enough of that in this world. She was the No. 1 volunteer. That's what makes this country great. She personified it."

The Patriots owner even wondered if she had helped the Patriots win their Jan. 22 game against the Baltimore Ravens, which sent the New England team into the Super Bowl. The Ravens' kicker missed an easy 32-yard field goal that could have tied the game and sent it into overtime.

"I think we had an angel smiling down on us that day," Kraft said. "I think the spirit of my sweetheart pervades our locker room and our team this year. I really do."

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