Charles Leno achieved a childhood dream that only a few people have and will ever achieve in their lives. Everyone wants to be some kind of entertainer, he said whether it is as a music artist or sports figure, but the reality is that the odds of reaching those goals are slim.
Leno wants to show people that there are other ways to have a long, successful career in those industries.
"There's so many things that are wrapped up inside the athlete that people don't see," Leno said. "So, think beyond that."
The mindset led to Leno and his wife, Jen, starting "Beyond the Entertainer," which is dedicated to showing the world that there is more to entertainers than what meets the eye. The organization will be featured prominently on Leno's cleats as part of the NFL's "My Cause, My Cleats" yearly initiative.
"Beyond the Entertainer," which was started in 2019 by the Leno family, has strived to accomplish two main goals. The first is to expose kids looking to start a career in sports to all the positions and paths they could take. Because most want to be among the handful of individuals who become professional athletes, these other careers often get overlooked, but they can be just as rewarding in many cases.
"You can be a [general manager]. You can have strive to be that," Leno said. "You can be the team president, a Black team president, like we have [with] Jason Wright. You can be a strength coach, you can be a coach, you can be a nutritionist, you can be a financial advisor."
The second goal is to show people that athletes can be more than people who provide entertainment on gamedays. "Beyond the Entertainer" wants to pay it forward to "make this world a better place," as the website claims, and there are multiple initiatives, such as a mentorship program and a program for addressing world hunger, that are in the works to help accomplish that.
One initiative that has been around since the organization's origin is "Leno Claus," which takes place from Dec. 1-20 every year. "Beyond the Entertainer" partners with 20 other organizations to give gifts and make monetary donations. There is also a chance for people to nominate friends and family who are in need of some holiday cheer in the final days before Christmas.
"It's all about 25 days of giving back to different organizations and different families," Leno said. "When I got on those Zoom calls last year, man, sometimes some of them bring tears to your eyes to see how happy those families are."
"Beyond the Entertainer" is not the only organization that will be featured on Leno's cleats, though. He will also be representing the Hogfarmers Charitable Foundation, which is dedicated to helping children and families affected by pediatric cancer.
The Hogfarmers are focused on giving back, so it was an easy choice for Leno to partner with them.
"I just love what they do in the community, man," Leno said. "It's a really good organization."
The foundation provides several services to families affected by cancer, including gas cards, food cards, team memorabilia and personal medical items in addition to toys and books for the children.
According to the team's mission statement, "If we can get a smile in their troubling time, the mission is complete."
Leno will also be supporting Feed the Fridge, which is a nonprofit that focuses on helping local restaurants in the DMV stay in business. They do this by placing refrigerators around the DMV and paying local restaurants to fill them with fresh meals. Their goal, according to the nonprofit's website, is to goal is to "deliver over 1 million free nutritious meals prepared by local restaurants." The network of fridges can be found all around the DC metro area and soon to be across the nation.