Earlier this month, I was on the West Side of Chicago to volunteer my time rejuvenating a rundown park. A group of 300 volunteers mulched trees, planted greenery, and picked up trash. I worked alongside National Football League (NFL) greats such as John Randle, Orlando Pace, and Leonard Wheeler; 50 students from nearby Collins High School; several Fuel Up to Play 60 students; as well as the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell; and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
A handful of other dairy farmers and I were asked to join in on the volunteer effort largely in part because the NFL recognized its decade of partnership with the dairy industry during a 100th anniversary celebration. In honor of the NFL's centennial, the "Huddle for 100" initiative encourages 1 million people to donate 100 minutes of their time to shape what their communities will look like in 100 years.
While the next day would be the NFL season kickoff game between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers, what the commissioner was most focused on and most proud of was making an impact to create a better tomorrow.
This resonated with me, largely because dairy farmers naturally want to make tomorrow better. They care for the land and their cows in ways that the future generations will benefit from. And, regardless of the endless work on the farm, dairy farmers still find a way to volunteer in their local communities.
Us farmers were in for a treat because before we put on our work gloves, Commissioner Goodell wanted to sit down and personally talk to us. The commissioner immediately drew us in with his ability to listen from his heart. He wanted to know about our struggles as dairy farmers and asked about our hopes. Later, when he went to speak in front of the crowd and to the media, he paused and gave a huge shoutout to thank dairy farmers, stating, "I don't know anyone who works harder."
The commissioner could have easily left after his media responsibility was done, but instead he put on his gloves and worked side-by-side with all of us to shape Douglas Park for the better.
Let's put aside our differences. Regardless of the team jersey you sport, show NFL fans how hard dairy farmers work — both on and off the field. Help the NFL reach the goal of 1 million people volunteering 100 minutes by giving your time, snapping a photo, and posting online. For full details, visit www.nfl.com/100/huddlefor100.
Karen Bohnert is a second-generation dairy farmer, born and raised on her family dairy in Oregon and moved east after graduating from Oregon State Univer-sity. Karen and her husband work in partnership with family, and they along with their three children live and work on the family's 500 Jersey cow dairy in East Moline, Ill. Karen's pride and love for dairy could fill a barn, and she actively promotes dairy anyway she can.