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Howard using spotlight for greater good

PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard should be an easy man to find on Thanksgiving.

For the second consecutive year, Howard and his wife, Krystle, will participate in Philadelphia's Thanksgiving Day parade, the oldest in the country.

"It's a nice experience," Howard said last week at Citizens Bank Park. "You're usually out there, watching the parade go by. Actually being able to participate in the parade is a cool experience. It's a lot different. This is one of the biggest ones in the country."

The Howards just completed their first year with The Ryan Howard Big Piece Foundation, which is focused on improving the lives of children by promoting academic and athletic development and engaging students in literacy.

They piloted The Ryan Howard Reading Challenge, a K-3 literary-based program that engages students in reading. In July they held the inaugural Stand Up for Literacy event at The Franklin Institute.

"It's important for me, because education was always at the forefront," Howard said. "I couldn't play sports, I couldn't go to practice, I couldn't do anything, unless all of my schoolwork, my homework was in order. It's the same thing with my son. If the books aren't right, then you can't play tonight, you know what I'm saying?

"I feel it's important to be able to give back. In the position I'm in, whether you want people to or not, a lot of people look up to you. I want to be able to take the position I'm in and be able to reach out to the kids and the kids' parents. You don't have to be a professional athlete to be a role model. As a parent, as an older brother, as a teacher, as a sibling, you're a role model. You're always going to have somebody looking up to you."

He will have plenty of people watching him on Thanksgiving.

"You just want to be able to give them a chance to succeed in life," he said. "You don't want kids to say, 'I never got a shot. I never caught a break.' I was able to get a break in being able to make it with the talents I was blessed with. I just want to see others succeed."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for

Philadelphia Phillies, Ryan Howard