McManus lends time to making a difference

Portland Timbers midfielder Tony McManus has made a full-time job out of volunteering both during the season and the off-season. Community-oriented throughout his career, McManus has instantly made an impact in the Portland community and took advantage of some downtime during the recent offseason to make a difference.
Recovering from a shoulder injury which put him out of the lineup for part of the 2009 season, McManus spent countless hours in physical therapy over the winter months, determined to make it back on the field. With extra time not spent on the playing field, McManus instantly sought volunteer opportunities around Portland.
“Since the season ended and I had a lot more free time to get involved, I decided that it was time to spend a little more time trying to help our community than sitting around moping after surgery,” said McManus.
McManus started volunteering with Starlight Children’s Foundation, which has been dedicated to improving the quality of life for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses and life-altering injuries by providing entertainment, education and family activities that help them cope with the pain, fear and isolation of prolonged illness. From visiting with children in the hospital and assisting other volunteers on Starlight events, to hanging out and playing around with the kids, McManus makes himself available for whatever is needed.
“I don’t volunteer to get the credit,” McManus explained.  “I would do it even if nobody else took notice, but it does feel nice to know that people see it and hopefully this will inspire others to get involved in the community and others’ lives.”
Soon after starting with Starlight, McManus began volunteering with The Shadow Project, a local nonprofit founded in 1997 by a Portland mom whose son has learning challenges. Honored in 2008 by the Oregon Education Association, The Shadow Project provides teachers a free goal-setting program to use right in their classrooms – a program proven to help students with learning challenges become more successful in school. The Timbers have long supported The Shadow Project, which was a recipient of a $5,000 grant from the award-winning Portland Beavers & Portland Timbers Community Fund in 2008. 
McManus has also been working with students at Harrison Park Elementary once a week to read to the class.  His group of students consists of seven kids who have trouble with their reading skills, so he helps them with books and vocabulary.  In addition to literacy, McManus also helps tutor a student in math for thirty minutes after the reading group has finished.
"Tony is an exceptional, generous and multi-talented individual,” said Shannon Cooper, fifth grade teacher at Harrison Park Elementary. “On the day Tony is scheduled to come to my room, the students literally race down the halls to see Tony. He demonstrates an uncanny ability to effectively work with the students. Tony brings joy to their lives while providing needed individualized instruction. My 5th grade students and I are deeply grateful for Tony's time and efforts. His presence does make a significant difference in the lives of my students."
McManus’ work in the community is essential to the Timbers’ community mission, which is to is to make the quality of life better for children and families in the greater-Portland area. The Timbers strive to reach this goal through focused giving each year, as well as dedication to strengthening the bond between the Portland Timbers and their fans through extensive community outreach. “Players like Tony are part of the reason our community outreach platform is successful,” said Sierra Smith, director of community outreach for the Portland Timbers. “Tony is one-of-a-kind and inspires me to build a community program that our players can get behind.”
In addition to his volunteer work, McManus has also become a big brother through Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest, which works to help boys and girls achieve their potential through positive adult relationships. McManus and his “little brother” visit for one hour, once a week and together participate in various activities.
“Our activities really vary as to what he wants to do or what the weather allows us to do,” said McManus.  “So far we have spent some time going out to dinner, going to the Walking with Dinosaurs event and catching up on Star Wars.”
McManus spends approximately three hours a week volunteering in the community and would prefer to do more.  Aside from his volunteer work with Portland nonprofits, McManus is actively engaged in the community outreach department and participates in hospital visits and helping with Timbers’ clinics, among other events.  McManus was brought up to put others before himself and truly enjoys giving back. 
“I have been able to spend some time with children and families who are less privileged than me and it really made me take a step back and look at how truly blessed my life has been and how much it means to these children to have someone take time out of their day to spend with them,” McManus explains. 
“Too often you see professional athletes who take their position in the community for granted and do not spend any time giving back. I don’t want to be the one who looks back on life and realizes that I missed an opportunity to step up. Through volunteering, I have been able help others, whether by simply being there to provide some stability or helping people start to see their potential and believe that they can overcome any obstacle, whether that be physical, learning, living circumstances, or trying to be a better soccer player.  The smiles and thanks that they have given me make me feel good and push me to do more.”

By Sierra Smith