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Just this week, United Way was chosen by Forbes magazine as an “All-Star Charity.” It’s a distinction only held by five nonprofits and we wear it proudly. However, we share the accolade with our “All-Star” partners and the millions of volunteers who over the past 125 years have worked with us to strengthen communities and improve peoples’ lives.

There have been plenty of notable supporters throughout the years lending their names and famous faces to the cause—from cartoon characters (Fred & Wilma Flintstone, Woody Woodpecker,  Jiminy Cricket) to actors and musicians (Bill Cosby, Johnny Cash, Elizabeth Taylor, Tony Bennett, Dolly Parton, George Clooney) to U.S. Presidents (Calvin Coolidge, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton).

But none have been as visible for as long as our friends from the National Football League. Nearly 40 years ago, Commissioner Pete Rozelle made the call to create what would become the longest-running, sports/charity collaboration in history. Nearly 1,000 players, coaches and owners have appeared in the highly visible NFL-United Way ads, making this partnership with the NFL special in many ways. It was a groundbreaking effort when conceived and over the years it has generated an extraordinary amount of visibility, donor dollars and volunteers for United Ways.

That legacy continued with Commissioners Paul Tagliabue and Roger Goodell, and today the partnership is impacting communities nationwide with initiatives that advance our work in education and youth health. Who knows where our communities would be had the NFL not chosen to shine a spotlight on United Way and the agencies and people it serves.

So in this, our 125th year, we offer a BIG THANKS to the NFL and the owners, coaches, players and staff who made this partnership great. Without question, you are our most valuable player.