At Monday's New England Patriots Charitable Foundation Kickoff Gala in Gillette Stadium’s Putnam Club, third-year punter Zoltan Mesko became the 10th player to receive the New England Patriots Ron Burton Community Service Award.
Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft presented Mesko with the award, which is named in honor of the late Ron Burton, the first player drafted by the team and a community leader whose widespread charitable work was a model for how a Patriots player can make an impact off the field.
“Zoltan is one of the best punters in the league, but he may be the league’s current MVP for his contributions in the community,” said Kraft. “In the 18 years since we established the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, perhaps no player has accomplished more in the community in such a short amount of time.”
The Romanian-born Mesko, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft out of Michigan, discovered his passion for charity work, particularly that which benefits children, shortly after his arrival in New England. He immediately became one of the team’s most active community participants.
In two seasons as a Patriot, Mesko has participated in a community event nearly every Tuesday (the players’ only off day each week), and often participates in more than one per week. He is also known to seek out opportunities to get involved in the community when he is in the area during the offseason.
In Foxborough, Mesko most recently participated in a "Read Between the Lines" event at Ahern Middle School on June 6. He also teamed up with the Attleboro YMCA camp in Norton to promote the and participated in the .
Last season, Mesko was one of the Patriots players who spearheaded the season-long “Celebrate Volunteerism” campaign, visiting Boys & Girls Clubs, hospitals, veterans homes, home makeover events and more to promote the benefits of volunteering.
In October 2011, he joined several of his teammates in a one-day playground build for a Providence, R.I. community. Mesko also granted wishes for 11 youth from across the country who chose to meet Patriots players as part of the Make-A-Wish program.
During the holidays, Mekso was determined to make the season special for as many children possible by participating in every Patriots holiday activity. He helped children from homeless shelter programs select gifts during Patriots Gifts from the Gridiron and played games with more than 250 children from Massachusetts and Rhode Island during the Patriots Community Holiday Party.
During the offseason, Mesko took it upon himself to organize a karaoke fundraiser, called “Zolioke,” where more than a dozen of his teammates sang karaoke, participated in live and silent auctions and interacted with pediatric patients to benefit Children’s Hospital Boston.
Mesko joins a select group of Patriots players to receive the Ron Burton Award: Joe Andruzzi (2003), Troy Brown (2004), Matt Light (2005), Jarvis Green (2006), Ty Warren (2007), Larry Izzo (2008), Kevin Faulk (2009), Vince Wilfork (2010) and Jerod Mayo (2011).
The gala kicked off with introductions of the 2012 Patriots team and coaches and it is the only annual event at which attendees have an opportunity to mingle with every Patriots player and coach.
The gala is an annual fundraiser for the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation. Monies raised help fund many worthwhile causes throughout New England. Since its inception in 1994, the Patriots Charitable Foundation has awarded thousands of in-kind donations and grants to regional charities and non-profits, totaling millions of dollars.
In 2012, the Kraft family and Foundation will continue the Celebrate Volunteerism initiative that began in 2011. Through this campaign, the Foundation will highlight volunteerism by teaming with numerous nonprofits, educating people about the need for volunteering, increasing awareness for volunteer opportunities and honoring the many deserving volunteers in the New England region.