ASHBURN — The idea was the easy part.
Nick Sundberg, the Washington Redskins’ long snapper, said his wife, Flor, read an article about a school district that had begun washing clothes for some of its students, with immediate positive results in participation and attendance. Those children lived in families that lacked the resources or time to do laundry, and as a result, the children were staying away from school.
“I was just shocked that this was even an issue,” Sundberg said. “That having clean clothes could be an obstacle to kids not going to school.”
Sundberg, who has been active with the team’s charitable foundation during his nine years in Washington, said he wanted to do something similar in the Redskins’ communities.
Everything after that moment was the hard part.
“I had no idea the amount of work that had to be done,” Sundberg said. “Legal work, paperwork, plumbing, HVAC, training. It was crazy.”
His perseverance has turned the initial seed of idea into Loads of Love, which will be active in 42 schools starting this February.
Sundberg and the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation chose the sites from an open round of applications, including four in the Richmond area — Richmond Alternative High, John Marshall High, Swansboro Elementary and Summer Hill Preschool Center.
Through it all, Sundberg has stayed involved in the planning and details, though he intentionally left his name off the project — he wants other people to take the idea and make it their own across the country.
Jane Rodgers, the executive director of the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation, said Sundberg’s persistence has been inspiring.
“That’s what impresses me the most — it’s not just about putting his face on something,” she said. “It really is a commitment to be a part of this program, from inception to creation to stewardship.”
When Sundberg first came to the foundation with the idea, the suggestion was made to start in one or two area schools, to see how the program would work.
They chose three locations in Prince George’s County, Md., a location where the team and its foundation has been doing projects for years.
“When we reached out to PG County, they were like, ‘Oh my God, yes, washers and dryers are the No. 1 thing we ask for that we don’t get,’” Sundberg said.
Sundberg and the foundation then learned part of the reason why. They had ballparked the cost of getting one school running at $10,000. By the time they finished at Magnolia Elementary School, a process that involved contractors, legal experts and many hours of work, it was closer to $50,000. Sundberg footed the initial bill.
The name Loads of Love, or LOL, was picked in part to make the program sound fun and exciting. Sundberg and Rodgers knew an initial hurdle would be how to talk to the families that had been chosen to participate, which was done by the schools.
“Some open it up to anybody, some send personalized letters and talk to the families,” Rodgers said. “We heard a story from a school, that a kid not in the program came to school after a couple weeks and dropped a bag of laundry on the teacher’s desk.
“The teacher went to the principal, and they looked into it. The mom was battling cancer, and the kids were being taken care of by an aunt, and the laundry wasn’t getting done.
“We initially thought we’d be helping the homeless, but there are so many families that are struggling to make ends meet, and they would have to pay to get laundry done, so now they can pay the electric bill or the heating bill.”
A Washington Post profile of the program led to a phone call from the Deloitte accounting firm, which now donates its time and resources to help administer the grant program and track data and outcomes in the schools, which are crucial to growing the program and measuring its success.
With Deloitte’s help, the Redskins solicited applications from interested parties and began fundraising for an expansion.
The team devoted its annual Welcome Home Luncheon to fundraising, and owner Dan Snyder kicked off the campaign with a $100,000 contribution.
The final fundraising haul of $375,000 was enough to expand to 42 locations, now that the foundation has learned how to do it more effectively.
Leaders from those schools were brought to Redskins Park earlier this year for a training session.
“It was during the season, and we had a dinner and some of the schools that had already done it shared best practices,” Rodgers said. “We knew the demand would be great, but we had no idea. We had over 130 applications started in this round.”
She saluted Sundberg for being generous with his time, even as the obligations of the football season ramped up. Sundberg injured his back earlier this month and will not participate in the Redskins’ final regular-season game on Sunday.
At the schools, teachers and volunteers visit the laundry room as they have time during the day, taking clothes from the washers to the dryers, then folding them to return to the students at the end of the day.
It’s a transformative act that produces not just clean clothes, but a message of caring for the children.
“It’s about more than just attendance and grades,” Sundberg said. “It’s also the intangible things like participating in class and attitudes.”
He’s now fundraising for an additional round of expansion.
“I’d like to get to 100 locations by the start of the next school year,” he said, an ambitious goal. “That would be an additional $425,000 raised. But we’re getting the word out. .. When I talk to people, they say they had no idea. The more eyes we can open, the more we can get people to understand the importance.”
To donate to the Loads of Love project, visit redskins.com/community/loadsoflove or text LOADSOFLOVE to 44321.