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Big difference

PSU QB Clifford delivers for Big Brothers, Big Sisters

Sentinel photo by CHRIS MORELLI
Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford presents a check to Big Brothers Big Sisters. Clifford donated money that he made from his appearances on Cameo. All of his name-image-likeness money went to BBBS.

When it comes to making a big impact, Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford knows just how to do it.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Clifford looked across a grassy field, eyed his target and delivered a perfect strike.

That might sound familiar to fans of the Nittany Lions, but it’s not what you think. On this day, Clifford wasn’t at Beaver Stadium or even at the PSU practice facility. No, on this Saturday, he was on the grass at Harvest Fields, which sits next to Calvary Church in Centre County. And his receivers weren’t Penn State players. They were all “Littles” in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, which is run through the Centre County Youth Service Bureau.

Clifford was there to make a big-time donation to the program. He smiled as he talked about Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“This program is very near and dear to my heart,” Clifford said. “I’ve actually been involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters for about eight years. It started back in Cincinnati, Ohio, my hometown. I was a Big Brother my junior and senior years (of high school) and I still keep in contact with my Little.”

Prior to playing catch with Littles in the program, Clifford presented a $15,000 donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Centre County. That contribution included a $10,000 gift from Allstate, thanks to Clifford’s placement on their Good Works Team. The Good Works Team “recognizes college football athletes for their unwavering commitment to community service and their ‘good works’ off the field.” Another $5,000 came from Clifford’s personal NIL-related proceeds, fulfilling a pledge he made in September. The NIL funds, he explained, come from his appearances on “Cameo,” a service in which people pay for celebrities to make personalized messages for fans. The platform allows fans to pay him for shoutouts for birthdays, special occasions and just about anything else. In the fall of 2021, Clifford was the seventh-most booked NCAA student-athlete on Cameo, according to 247Sports.com.

Since Clifford arrived at University Park, he has been involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters and the YSB.

“I was looking for something to get involved in. The minute I saw Big Brothers Big Sisters, I was like ‘that’s my organization.’ It’s been a blast. I’ve gotten to know lots of great families,” Clifford said.

Zach Maser, a case manager for YSB, said that Clifford’s involvement in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program has been immeasurable.

“He’s been such a huge supporter of us all along. What I think that really stands out to me is that his time is not his own and yet he still makes time to see his Little regularly. He made time to be here today and left practice early. He’s all in and it’s wonderful,” Maser said.

Clifford’s Little, Aidan, gave him a gift and then posed for photos as they presented the YSB with the oversized check. Clifford said he was thrilled to be able to make the donation.

“It’s such a great organization; it’s really not about the money. It’s being able to give them a little something extra to keep growing and expanding. It makes me feel good just to be able to give them a little bit of money to help them in any sort of way,” Clifford said.

While a lot of student-athletes are taking the NIL money and spending it on luxuries, Clifford went the other way.

“As soon as he found out college athletes could make (NIL) money, he wanted to donate all money he could make off his Cameo … he has supported us with his time and his talent,” Maser said.

Clifford has helped the YSB grow, making videos about the BBBS program to help recruit new Bigs.

According to the YSB website, the goal of Big Brothers Big Sisters is “to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever … to ensure children, youth, and families have every opportunity to reach their full potential.”

Clifford came to the event at Harvest Fields straight off the Penn State practice field. He threw on some sweats and a hoodie and hopped in the car. When he arrived at Harvest Fields, he was greeted by a throng of people — YSB staff, families, Bigs and Littles.

“That’s what this community is. It’s all about family. State College is a close-knit community. I couldn’t be more thankful. I’m really excited just to be here with everybody,” Clifford said.

According to Clifford, being a part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program gives him a satisfaction that he can’t find on the football field.

“The accolades are fantastic and it’s great to win games and be a part of that, but at the same time, it’s about making a one-on-one lasting impact with people and being able to change your community. I truly believe in one-on-one personal relationships and that’s why I’m here and why I have such a great time. It’s really not a burden to me in any way because I see so much value in this community and these people,” Clifford said.

As he unleashed pass after pass to the youngsters at Harvest Fields, other Bigs got in on the fun. Angela Stecco, a local DJ on B945, is also a Big Sister in the program. She, like Clifford, finds the experience enjoyable beyond words.

“Like Sean, I wanted to give back somehow. I thought, ‘what’s a way I can give back to the youth?’ That’s when I found out about the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and the Youth Service Bureau. It sounded perfect and I decided to go to some of the information sessions and I loved it. It was definitely for me,” Stecco said.

And while Stecco didn’t get to shag a pass from Clifford, she did get to pose for a photo with Penn State’s starting QB.

“We get to do a lot of fun things,” Stecco said. “The YSB does such a wonderful job.”

Clifford recently began practicing for his sixth season with the Nittany Lions. That means more time with his Little, Aidan, as well as the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and YSB.

“I really love it,” Clifford said. “Aidan and I have been matched for six months now and we are just like brothers, honestly. It’s been so much fun. I enjoy every minute that I get to be around him, Bigs, Littles, whatever it may be. It’s just a blast.”

For more information about the Big Brothers Big Sisters program or the YSB, visit www.ccysb.com or call (814) 237-2224.

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