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Community Connections Are Key Part of NESN's Playbook

This past weekend, NESN employees took swings to connect for the Franciscan Hospital for Children.

On a beautiful spring day, more than 20 of the regional sports network's staffers volunteered for the second annual Travis Roy Wiffle Ball Tournament on May 19. All proceeds from the day's play and activities at The "Wake" Field behind the hospital in Brighton, Mass., were split between the Franciscan Hospital for Children and the Travis Roy Foundation, which is dedicated to enhancing the life of individuals with spinal cord injuries and their families by providing adaptive equipment and to finding a cure through increased funding of research.

The event is just one of many that employees at New England's leading RSN participate in to benefit both Boston-area charities. NESN also has deeper commitments to organizations operated by two of its parent group, Boston Red Sox Foundation and Boston Bruins Foundation, as well as the Jimmy Fund and Children's Hospital Boston's Brain Injury Center

All of the activities, which also include funding and the donation of promotional air time to, come under the heading of "NESN Connects."

Since NESN's debut in 1984, its employees' dedication to charitable service has run as deep New England's fandom for the Bruins and Red Sox, the two teams the RSN covers. Alongside its push to provide high-quality telecasts and coverage of the NHL and MLB  teams and other area sports clubs and events, NESN remains highly invested in corporate citizenship. So much so organization's that the core values and are articulated on the walls at its headquarters: "We are responsible, on a corporate and personal level, to promote the general well being of the New England region. Through our physical, financial, and promotional contributions we are able to positively impact people's lives and build stronger bonds throughout the community."

That philosophy emanates from the top as NESN president and CEO Sean McGrail, who not only is engaged with charitable initiative and sits on several boards, but encourages employee volunteerism. As part of their job description, each of NESN's 150-plus staffers receive three paid service days annually.

 "Charitable endeavors are so important. Volunteerism is critical part of what NESN is," said McGrail in a recent interview.

McGrail said in 2011 the RSN's employees contributed about 1000 hours of service to such groups as Camp Sunshine, Greater Boston Food Bank, Home for Little Wanderers, Perkins School for the Blind, and the Pine Street Inn for homeless, which on May 20 was the site of Sportsman Channel's latest stop on its Hunt. Fish. Feed. initiative to nourish the hungry.

In September, NESN for the first time will participate in Walk for Walker, supporting programs and professionals that provide world-class mental health services, state-of-the-art special education, and child welfare advocacy, as well as the Watertown Boys and Girls Club 5K in November.

"Each year, you'll find our network and employees reaching out, working in neighboring communities," said McGrail.

This continual involvement flanks NESN aforementioned ties to its core four charities with both the Bruins and Red Sox, the Jimmy Fund ,and Children's Hospitals Boston's Brain Injury Center.

"Over the years, we were involved with many groups. There certainly are no bad charities, all of them do good things," said McGrail. "But if you truly want to make a difference, you have to be more selective and focus on those you really believe in. About 10 years ago, we did."

With the ed Sox's relationship with the Jimmy Fund -- the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute that raises funds for adult and pediatric cancer care and research to improve the chances of survival for cancer patients around the world -- dating back to Ted Williams, NESN has supported the Jimmy Fund since its inception 28 years ago.

"It started in New England, branched out up and down the east coast and around the country," said McGrail, noting NESN holds annual Jimmy Fund Telethons in which the RSN typically devotes 36 on-air hours and the support of 50 employees answering phones and collecting donations at Fenway Park. Those efforts have raised some $28 million over the past decade from a variety of donors, including a certain Red Sox rival. "The Yankees have been very generous," said McGrail.

NESN began its newest core relationship with Children's Hospital Boston's Brain Injury Center back in 2006, when Dr. David Mooney and Dr. Mark Proctor met with RSN executives and explained the need for a program specifically designed to treat children with brain injuries, which is a leading cause of deaths among children and teens.

"Children suffer biking, skateboarding accidents, as well as concussions through team sports. They would receive treatment for the injuries and the symptoms, but there was no follow-up care center anywhere in the U.S. We felt compelled to get involved," said McGrail, as NESN raised money to help with the initial funding of the center.

The RSN's profile with the Brain Injury Center has become more prominent, considering health and sports communities increasing focus on concussions

In March, NESN hosted Children's Hospital Boston's Brain Injury Center at TD Garden for a special Bruins broadcast, where the RSN highlighted the fight against brain injuries and the importance of preventing youth head injuries.

In addition to funding efforts and employee volunteerism, NESN creates website messaging and PSAs for the different groups it supports, and its commitment extends to providing air-time, amounting to some $1 million annually, including positioning within high-rated Bruins and Red Sox telecasts, to bringing awareness to the various causes.