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Browns build playground for students

Posted Oct 23, 2013

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns partnered with the United Way of Greater Cleveland and Cleveland Clinic for the team’s 15th annual Hometown Huddle Project.

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns spent Tuesday giving back to the very community that gives them support every Sunday.

Through their partnership with the United Way of Greater Cleveland, Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Cleveland Clinic, the Browns built safe play space at Buckeye-Woodland Elementary School for their Hometown Huddle Project as part of the NFL’s National Day of Caring.

“There’s a commitment among the United Way and Cleveland Browns to have an impact through the annual Hometown Huddle,” said Jenner Tekancic, director of community relations for the Browns. “By creating this permanent play space here, it’s a message there are people who want to make a difference in the lives of others and hopefully, today, we’ve done that.”

“It’s fantastic; we love this relationship that we have,” added Bill Kitson, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Cleveland. “In the Buckeye-Woodland neighborhood, this is the first playground. It’s the first playground for this elementary school.”

The playground at Buckeye-Woodland was the 15th the Browns have constructed through the Hometown Huddle initiative, and the very first for a school in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

“We are committed to making a difference with a focus on education,” Tekancic said. “The students at this elementary school did not have a play structure or an area to really be kids, and through this project, we’re able to provide them with a safe place to play throughout the entire year. We hope it becomes an area the neighborhood can be very proud of and really enjoy.”

Throughout the day, many of the Browns’ players joined with front-office staff and volunteers from the United Way of Greater Cleveland to install a basketball hoop and extensive play set behind the school. Players helped to set the posts, pour concrete and address landscaping needs near the foundation of the slide. The project was aligned with the Browns’ Play 60 movement.

Linebackers Paul Kruger, Craig Robertson and D’Qwell Jackson teamed up with offensive lineman Jason Pinkston and defensive lineman John Hughes for the morning session. During the final shift, which included the unveiling of the play space, kicker Billy Cundiff, defensive lineman Desmond Bryant, defensive back Johnson Bademosi, offensive lineman Shawn Lauvao and United Way/Team NFL Spokesman Jabaal Sheard were on site to help.

“For guys in our position, you never want to lose sight of giving back and help when you can,” Jackson said. “It’s truly an honor that I can be here today and help give these kids a playground. That’s the least we can do. That’s something that’s very important in a kid’s life, not only education, but the ability to let loose, run around and get exercise.”

Kruger added, “This is an awesome thing that they have. To be able to help out the school and give these kids a place to run around is pretty awesome. You can’t have a lot of fun unless you feel safe and protected.”

In the afternoon, tight end Jordan Cameron, cornerback Joe Haden and punter Spencer Lanning lent a helping hand to the project.

“Anytime you get an opportunity to go help in the community, it’s a great thing,” Cameron said. “It’s just a place where kids can come play and not worry if something’s going to happen or the equipment is bad. It’s a safe environment, and it’s good for these kids to have. It’s a good thing.”

Haden added, “It feels good because I was just remembering when I was younger. I was blessed. We had basketball courts; we had slides; we had all that stuff at my elementary school, so just giving them that experience will be big. I’m glad that they get to have basketball courts and stuff that they can play with. It’s special.”

Prior to Tuesday, the space behind the Buckeye-Woodland Elementary School was an empty concrete lot, and students would have to walk eight blocks to find the nearest park in which to play.

“It’s pretty hard to believe, and to me, this is what it’s all about, giving back to the kids,” Lanning said. “To think that they didn’t have the opportunity to play on the playground before and that this was desolate, is really hard to believe. It’s great for the Browns and United Way to come out here and give back  a little bit.”

In addition to the Browns and United Way volunteers, Cleveland Clinic also contributed to the project’s success.

“The Clinic is so fortunate to be involved with an event like this,” said Chris Abood, director of community partnerships and employee engagement for Cleveland Clinic. “It’s something that we try to do every year for the same reason the Cleveland Browns do it and the NFL does it because we really do care about the city.”

ABOUT BROWNS PLAY 60

The Browns’ PLAY 60 movement, contributing to the NFL’s nationwide initiative to promote youth health and wellness by getting active at least 60 minutes each day, is in association with Cleveland Clinic; Medical Mutual; and American Dairy Association Mideast and Fuel Up to PLAY 60. The Browns actively bring PLAY 60 to the local community throughout the year to ensure kids and families are learning about and taking steps toward a healthy lifestyle.