|Release Date: 2/22/2013||Contact: Charles Herndon, 410-887-6111|
DUNDALK, MD. – Ravens starting center Matt Birk announced today the donation of a “Reading Oasis" reading lab to Battle Grove Elementary School, the culmination of a close relationship between the Dundalk school and the six-time Pro Bowl player for the Super Bowl champion Ravens. Birk also took the opportunity Friday during a press conference at the school to announce his retirement from the National Football League after 15 seasons with both the Minnesota Vikings and the Baltimore club. “I thought (Battle Grove Elementary) was a fitting place to do this," Birk told the school’s Grade 5 students in the Battle Grove media center. “I’ve enjoyed playing football, but I’ve enjoyed coming to schools over the years and being with young people just as much. You guys give me positive energy." The “Reading Oasis" will serve as a community reading resource, said Battle Grove Principal Jennifer Gounaris. Sponsored by Scholastic and Birk’s own HIKE Foundation, the lab will be “a warm and comfortable place where you and your parents can come and read," Birk said. With about 100 books per grade level, it will likely be housed in a school classroom. Birk’s relationship with Battle Grove began when he visited the school last December to donate 350 books. His HIKE Foundation, which he began in 2002 to impart “Hope, Inspiration, Knowledge, and Education" to at-risk students, provided one book for each student at the school. Birk also struck up a friendship with 10-year-old Grade 5 student Larry Bryant while at Battle Grove; he later provided Bryant with tickets to the Ravens’ December 23 game against the New York Giants. On Friday, Birk told Bryant the school’s new reading room would be known as the “Larry Bryant Reading Oasis;" in return, Bryant performed an exuberant version of Ravens’ star Ray Lewis’ “squirrel dance" for his classmates, teachers, and scores of reporters. “You do that better than Ray does," Birk said.