STATE COLLEGE — Former State High and Penn State football standout Nate Stupar returned to his hometown this past weekend to spread some holiday cheer through his State of Hope Foundation.
Stupar and his wife, Marissa, hosted a shopping spree for 11 kids from Centre County on Dec. 21 at Target, 315 Colonnade Blvd., bringing smiles to dozens of faces during a fun-filled afternoon. Of course, there were plenty of photos taken and autographs signed afterward, too.
They started the foundation together in 2016 — a few years into Stupar’s NFL career — as a way to give back, and they hope to hold more events like this in the future.
Marissa came up with the name for the foundation, which aims to provide disadvantaged children with positive life experiences that enrich them, build confidence and instill hope, according to its website. As the parents of three girls, the Stupars know what it takes to make every child feel special and particularly seen.
“I think it was something that we both always felt passionate about is to help out our community, especially kids,” Marissa said. “With my background in child development, it was just something I always wanted to do, and I know that he’s always great with helping out everyone in the community. With both of our hearts in that, we thought it would be the right choice to start a foundation.”
Nate explained how their background working with children together over the years helped establish their vision for the foundation.
“She worked at Big Brothers Big Sisters here in State College,” he said. “Throughout that process of me being there, too, and just being around the kids and helping her out with that, we just had a passion for kids and making a positive impact in their lives. It’s been a blessing. We’re happy to do it. We continue to grow each and every year. It’s just something we love.”
The Stupars said it is special to be able to hold this event in the State College community after bouncing around to various parts of the country throughout Nate’s first eight seasons in the league.
“We’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but with the NFL, we really couldn’t because we were always away,” Nate said. “We have a golf tournament every year, but we really wanted to start impacting the community around the holidays. It was very special to be able to do it this year.”
Marissa reflected on how rewarding it was for her and her husband to interact face-to-face with the children, who were each given $150 to spend on whatever they wanted.
The kids filled their shopping carts with everything from headphones to giant stuffed animals.
“With us actually being with the families and the kids, it was nice to see them getting excited about picking out certain things, and what they may not usually get, they can get today,” she said. “It was a lot of fun seeing that. When we do fundraisers, we may not actually be working with the kids, so today was a great event to be one-on-one with some of these kids.”
After being selected by the Oakland Raiders in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL draft and playing for six other franchises, most recently the New York Giants, Stupar is currently a free agent who is hoping to sign with a team this off-season.
Stupar is among a handful of State High stars who have had successful NFL careers, joining Jordan Norwood, Matt Suhey, and Larry Johnson Jr. His brother, Jon Stupar, also played two seasons in the NFL.
The “Linebacker U” alum had 205 tackles and four interceptions during his time at Penn State from 2007-11, which also included countless community outreach events that prepared him for a future of philanthropy.
“Penn State did an awesome job, because we always did so many different types of things with the community,” he said. “It’s something that you should want to do, too, because you’re having so much support from the community around you that you should want to give back. It’s fun to do and we just love doing it.”