Dolphins' Alec Ingold earns award for work in adoption, foster care advocacy

Alec Ingold's work with youth in foster care is a passion for the Dolphins fullback. AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

MIAMI -- Adopted at birth, Miami Dolphins fullback Alec Ingold believes he would have dedicated his time toward helping children and youth in foster care, no matter where his career took him.

He had a plan if football didn’t work out; in fact, you could argue that football was Plan B.

Around his junior year at Wisconsin, Ingold was skeptical of his NFL future, so he began preparing for a career outside of sports. He had even accepted what he called a “big-time” offer from Oracle before ultimately signing with the Las Vegas Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2019.

Since entering the league, Ingold has become a national spokesperson for AdoptUSKids, and he established the Ingold Family Foundation, working to connect youth in foster care with caring adults and enhance financial literacy in schools.

Last week, he was awarded the Adoption Excellence Award by AdoptUSKids, accepting the award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

“It just means we're on the right track. It means whatever we're doing is being heard, it's being seen,” Ingold said of the award. “The impact is real, and it's just so motivating to keep going. It's being able to be in a room with all these key people in this space to be able to network, to be able to throw ideas off to one another, to exchange business cards so that more work and more impact can be made.

“That's where I saw it as an opportunity to grow and that validation -- just being like, whatever we're doing, it's working and let's just keep on.”

Ingold’s passion for foster care and adoption advocacy stems from his personal experience. His adopted family set up a meeting with his birth mother when he was in the third grade, and she reached out to him later in his life when he began working with AdoptUSKids.

“My parents opened their home to her and we were able to meet, shake hands and see face to face, and have that impact -- that was really cool,” he said. “But then to touch base again later in our lives to just kind of be like, this is what adoption's supposed to be. It's supposed to have a supportive family and allow kids to chase their dreams and grow up to be whatever they want to grow up to be.”

The 26-year-old has worked with foster care and adoption advocacy groups in his hometown of Green Bay, Wisconsin, as well as Las Vegas and Miami. Since establishing the Ingold Family Foundation in January, he’s hosted football camps, a charity softball game and a back-to-school drive with the Children’s Home Society of Florida (CHSFL).

Ingold also worked with UNLV to establish a 10-week Pathways program that taught job readiness and financial literacy to foster youth who had aged out or were at risk of aging out of the system.

“These kids, some of them have gotten picked up with garbage bags to put all their belongings in, and they're just moving from home to home,” he said. “It's hard for that kid to then trust an adult. … So when we were going through that Pathways program, it was life development, it was life skills, it was character traits. It was being a good person, a good human. It was job readiness.

“It was like Life 101, and just being able to sit those kids down while they're still in college, while they're still getting their degree and still working hard, they still have subsidized housing through the system, so that when those things get taken away, they're prepared and they're ready to go do whatever they want. I think that was massive and really important when their back is against the wall.”

Ingold said he immediately dove headfirst into working in the South Florida community after signing with the Dolphins in March. The Dolphins’ community team helped him quickly connect with organizations like the CHSFL and partnered with him during their back-to-school drive earlier this year.

Ingold said he plans to establish a scholarship for “post-adoption extracurricular expenses” like sports leagues, equipment and travel fees.

Ingold said he’s learned how his profession has helped deliver his message. During one classroom session on financial literacy, he started the day by playing his highlight tape and explained what he did for a living -- which he said immediately got the kids’ attention.

“I learned a lesson that day to start with the highlight tape,” he laughed. “Draw them in right off the bat.”

And he knows this is something he would’ve done even if he followed through with the job at Oracle.

“I don't know if it would've changed the interactions I would've had with kids. I feel like I'd still be doing something somewhere to help out those kids, to be a voice, to be a leader somewhere,” he said. “But the reach and the impact you can have by putting together a football camp or teaching kids about financial literacy when they’d probably fall asleep during school when that subject is put up on the board.

“I think having that little bit of a different unique job title being in the NFL kind of helps drive the impact home in a different way than anything else.”