Red Zone

Chiefs’ Derrick Johnson is helping build reading rooms for kids

Derrick Johnson made an appearance at Banneker Elementary.
Derrick Johnson made an appearance at Banneker Elementary. Photo courtesy of Derrick Johnson

Chiefs inside linebacker Derrick Johnson is in the midst of a comeback season, but he’s still finding time to give back to the community.

On Monday, Johnson toured the newly-completed Discovery Den at Benjamin Banneker Middle School in Kansas City, along with Mayor Sly James. It is one of five discovery dens Johnson has opened over the past year through his Defend the Dream Foundation, with the help of Scholastic. The others are at Academia de Ninos, Our Lady of the Angels Catholic School, Satchel Paige Elementary School and Crispus Attucks Elementary School.

“Education gives kids opportunities of their future and it’s the key to get them out of the situation they are in, now,” Johnson said in a statement. “By doing just a little bit more and doing it early, in elementary and middle school, it’s going to help them in the long run.”

Johnson’s Defend the Dream Foundation transforms underutilized classrooms and libraries into reading rooms decorated with Chiefs colors, posters and furniture to read on. The dens are stocked with 1,200 age-appropriate books, donated by Scholastic.

Johnson’s ultimate goal is open dens in every Title I school in Kansas City. Title I is a federal grant program designed to give educational assistance to students living in areas of high poverty.

“It’s always good to see people who are recognized by the majority of the people in the community out doing things in the community, and that’s especially true with kids,” Mayor James said. “Kids — particularly young African-African and Latino kids — need to be able to see people they can look up to, and to have Derrick come in and meet these kids on their level, it’s a great deal.”

Three Kansas City Chiefs players, Travis Kelce, Dontari Poe, and Charcandrick West, made a surprise appearance to help kids figure out what equipment they needed at Dick's Sporting Goods Goods at the Town Center Plaza in Overland Park. Dick's Spor