BEREA -- The 2012 NFL Draft class recently completed the league’s annual Rookie Symposium and as part of the week’s activities, the AFC rookies participated in a Play 60 Youth Field Day for children of military families at the Cleveland Browns’ Berea training facility Friday.
In partnership with the NFL and the Browns, the 125 rookies from all 16 AFC teams interacted with the nearly 150 children at Friday’s event. Many of the children represented all five branches of the military, the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, in addition to the Ohio National Guard.
“The NFL and the Browns wanted to extend an invitation to our military families for this amazing event,” said Renee Harvey, vice president of community outreach for the Browns. “For the Browns, citizenship is one of our focus areas and having the families involved in the event allows for another opportunity to thank them for their service. Their service is ongoing, and so too is our appreciation.”
Showing support for those men and women serving the country in the military was something the players took to heart.
“The men and women of the military are serving for us,” said Houston Texans rookie defensive lineman Whitney Mercilus. “They’re at war right now. They’re across the seas and to be able to interact with these kids that don’t get a chance to interact with their mothers and fathers who are away, they get a chance to come out, let loose and just be a kid.”
Mercilus, an Akron native, was happy to help the children have fun while learning the game of football from professional athletes.
“I’m back in my home state and I get to give back to the community where I’m from, interact with the kids and just give back from the position where I’m at,” Mercilus said. “It’s a special opportunity. Not everyone gets to do this. Not every kid gets to do this. I wish, as a kid, that I got to interact with my favorite athletes from back then and all that. (I hope) they have fun, enjoy the moment and just enjoy everything that’s going on.”
The NFL is committed to helping each of the 32 communities in which they have a team.
Every year, the NFL holds the Hometown Huddle, the league’s national day of caring in conjunction with the United Way. From building playgrounds to painting fences, each team conducts a variety of activities and projects to better the communities in which they play.
The league also promotes an active lifestyle for the youth of America through its Play 60 initiative. The NFL-wide initiative is designed to get children active for at least 60 minutes a day.
“I hope, at the end of the day, that everybody has a great time,” Harvey said. “For some of the kids that don’t play football, hopefully, this piques their interest and they see that it is a great game and instills so many wonderful things in our youth. Hopefully, the players understand that given their platform, they can make such a difference.”