After making a remarkable comeback and winning the Super Bowl in 2014, Seattle Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson felt that something was still missing from his life. Robinson’s retirement was looming and he wanted to do something that really mattered. His focus: academics.
A graduate of Varina High School, Robinson founded Team Excel to ensure that all children have the proper educational opportunities, resources and life experiences necessary to achieve their dreams and become productive citizens. The organization’s mission addresses the lack of leadership and educational opportunities for young people who are underperforming in emerging communities of Eastern Henrico.
Robinson’s innovative concept caught our eye during the spring 2015 focus area grant cycle. What makes Team Excel unique is that the program leverages some of the benefits of athletics to support success in the classroom and the community – using a reverse Fantasy Football concept. Students are the “fantasy athletes” and community mentors serve as team coaches. Teams compete for prizes and recognition based on their grades, attendance and community service. This particular program aligns with our thriving people focus area – dedicated to transformative educational programs for children 18 and under.
Learn more about Team Excel in this recent “Positively Richmond” segment on WRIC TV-8.
We awarded a focus area grant to Team Excel in March 2015 to help the organization expand their Excel to Excellence program into one more school in Eastern Henrico.
Focus area grants range from $15,000 to $50,000 and support grantees seeking funding in one of three areas:
- Strong nonprofits – projects that focus on capacity building, that strengthen nonprofits from within.
- Thriving people—for organizations and projects that support that empower children and families with opportunities to learn, play, discover, dream and grow into healthy and successful citizens who contribute to the vibrancy and well-being of our community.
- Dynamic community – for organizations and projects supporting children ages 0-18, and their parents/caregivers to ensure children are prepared for kindergarten, engaged in school, thrive academically and graduate on time with the necessary skills and opportunities for success.
More information on the guidelines for our focus area grants can be found here.
Lora McGlasson Robins was born June 24, 1912, in Waco, Texas, the third of five children of John and Lora McGlasson. In addition to her father’s legal practice in Waco, the McGlassons maintained a small farm, and early on their daughter learned how to milk the cow and harvest a chicken for Sunday dinner. She graduated from Waco High School and received a B.A. from Baylor University in 1932.
After a year-long teaching stint, Lora went to work in her father’s law office. It was there where she met her husband-to-be, E. Claiborne Robins, who was traveling the country introducing physicians to the pharmaceutical products of the fledgling A. H. Robins Company. Following her marriage on her 26th birthday in 1938, she accompanied Claiborne throughout the southwestern United States in his Model A Ford, as he continued his sales calls on physicians. Her pioneer spirit made her an ideal companion, as she quickly learned to set up housekeeping in every available lodging, doing laundry in the bathtub and baking pies nightly to fatten up her young 6’2″, 152 lb. husband.
Following their return to Richmond, she set to work as a loyal helpmate to build the company into the multi-national entity it was to become. From the beginning – and later as the A. H. Robins company grew to over 6,000 employees – she hosted large dinners at their Richmond for each new group of sales representatives, always preparing the meals herself. Lora indeed played a major role in creating the “family feeling” that the pharmaceutical company became widely known for. From time to time, they shut down the company to take all the employees on trips to N.Y.C., Washington D.C., Miami and Havana, Cuba. In the 1960s, with their love of Big Band music, she and Claiborne were able to bring the Glenn Miller Band and the following year Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey to Richmond to perform for the Robins Company employees.
With Claiborne working long hours to build the company, she bore most of the responsibility to raise their three children. Over the years she instilled in each of them her resourceful and adventurous nature and her can-do willingness to tackle almost any task, from re-wiring lamps to transforming under-funded non-profits. She loved to cook, but derived her greatest domestic pleasure from always having beautiful and extensive landscaping. Her appreciation of the natural world always kept her eager to learn more about her surroundings. In later life she became a discerning connoisseur of fine art, assembling impressive collections of unusual gems, shells and minerals, Old Masters paintings, fine examples of 18th century American furniture, Hester Bateman silver, and Boehm Birds, all of which she then donated to a number of Richmond area museums.
Her involvement with, and support of, local non-profits and individuals gave her great pleasure throughout her life. To the end, she always remembered to extend a hand to those who were less fortunate, with countless instances of “quiet philanthropy,” where she wasn’t seeking recognition, but was just trying to help someone in need. This personal philanthropy, both before and following Claiborne’s death in 1995, brought Mrs. Robins immense satisfaction, benefiting among many others, the American Red Cross and the Central Virginia Food Bank, the Virginia Historical Society, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the University of Richmond’s Lora Robins Gallery of Design and Nature. But her passion and her greatest interest were focused on Richmond’s Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Together with its Executive Director, Frank Robinson, they envisioned and brought to life a dream that has transformed the Garden today into a destination of national renown.
Over the decades, she and Claiborne were committed to sharing their good fortune with the community. Early on, they created the Robins Foundation, a family charitable foundation to ensure the perpetuation of their philanthropic legacy. In addition, their personal lifelong support of Richmond organizations, individuals and Claiborne’s alma mater, the University of Richmond, is evidenced by the many places and programs that today carry the Robins name. In 2004, Mrs. Robins was named the Outstanding Virginian of the Year by the General Assembly. She passed away on August 22, 2010.