MADISON – Shortly after Aaron Rodgers hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy and achieved what he called “the greatest goal,” the Green Bay Packers quarterback had a revelation – a feeling that he wanted more out of life.
“As we passed the trophy around, I remember sitting there with my close friends and thinking to myself, ‘This is unbelievable, but this can’t be it. This can’t be all of it. There has got to be more fulfillment in life than just winning Super Bowls.'”
That is when Rodgers took it upon himself to reach out to good friend and fellow activist Emmanuelle Chriqui. The two had been in touch for years and often spoke about organizations that truly made a global impact, particularly Raise Hope for Congo – a campaign of the Enough Project that fights to bring global awareness and activism towards ending the ongoing conflicts in the Eastern Congo.
“We talked about some of their stories over there and it tugged at my heart strings,” Rodgers said. “It was something I wanted to be a part of and I am excited about the opportunity to make a difference.”
On Monday night, Rodgers was doing his part to help make that difference in front of hundreds of University of Wisconsin students, rallying support to make “the Berkeley of the Midwest,” as he called it, the first Big Ten university to become “conflict-free.”
“Stand up and say to these tech companies, enough,” Rodgers told the crowd. “Enough of the rape as a war weapon. Enough of the genocide. We’ve had enough. We want to live in a world where our electronics do not fund rape and war.”
Chiriqui, who attended the Packers-Lions game as Rodgers’ guest Sunday at Lambeau Field, said her friend joining the cause will provide a huge lift to its profile.
“(Rodgers) is our newest ambassador,” said Chriqui, whose best-known acting role was that of Sloan McQuewick on the HBO show "Entourage." “It is just so incredible to have him because he opens up (our campaign) to a whole other demographic. We’ve had all kinds of celebrities on our campaign, but to have an athlete with the likes of Aaron Rodgers is definitely taking it to another level and opening it up to people who I don’t think are very cognizant of what is going on in the Congo.”
Involvement in this campaign is more than just a public appearance to Rodgers; he said he is devoting his time and effort because the events taking place in the Congo not only affect millions of innocent people but also hit close to his Packers home. His teammate and friend Andy Mulumba, a rookie linebacker, is a Congo native and accompanied Rodgers to the event.
“I don’t do this with the Enough Project and the Raise Hope for Congo to raise any type of anything about myself,” Rodgers said. “I do it for the people of the Congo, who I obviously feel close to, getting to know (Mulumba). I do it to raise awareness and I want to be a part of something special.”
Added Mulumba: “Having (Rodgers) speak for the cause is great. That shows how great of a person he is and that is one thing I am really grateful and thankful about.
“Having people come out (to events), my teammate and Hollywood people is really amazing to me.”
Since 2010, the Raise Hope for Congo initiative – with the help of celebrities such as Rodgers and Chriqui – has helped make more than 150 college campuses nationwide “conflict-free,” forcing numerous technology companies to rethink their ethics and invest in conflict-free minerals for their production of electronics.
To learn more about the cause, visit http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org/ .
Tony Cartagena covers University of Wisconsin football and basketball for ESPNWisconsin.com. You can follow him on Twitter @tonycartagena.