BEREA -- On Tuesday, the Cleveland Browns welcomed nearly 900 guests, including athletes and coaches, from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District for the 2013 Play 60 Special Olympics Party at the Casey Coleman Fieldhouse.
Athletes from 25 schools within the Cleveland Metropolitan School District participated in football drills, an exercise prize wheel, a dance station and other activities. They were also provided with a tailgate-style lunch in the team’s cafeteria from the Cleveland Touchdown Club Charities and had a chance to meet current and former Browns players.
Tuesday’s event was the 15th annual Special Olympics Party hosted by the Browns.
“This event actually started in our weight room,” said Renee Harvey, vice president of community outreach for the Browns. “They put table cloths down in the weight room and had the kids eat lunch. What started as that has now grown into what we have, close to 900 guests from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. We have a great partnership with them. It’s just great collaboration, a great opportunity for these kids to come out here and feel like great athletes and have a little bit of fun.”
Bill Hatfield, Special Olympics director for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, said the event continues to bring smiles to the faces of the city’s Special Olympics athletes and coaches.
“It’s a great opportunity for our athletes to have the whole Cleveland Browns experience,” Hatfield said. “It’s always wonderful to see the new athletes that we have every year come and experience it for the first time. Even if it’s their third or fourth time here, it’s always just great to see the smiles and see everybody having a great time and enjoying themselves.”
The Doug Dieken Foundation was one of the partners for the 2013 Special Olympics Party, and the former Browns left tackle recruited some of his teammates to participate in the event.
Along with Dieken, former Browns, Al “Bubba” Baker (1987, 1989-90), Tom Cousineau (1982-85), Bill Duff (1999), Dan Fike (1985-92), Jim Houston (1960-72), Ernie Kellermann (1966-71), Kevin Mack (1985-93), David Mays (1976-77), Rich Mostardi (1960), Sam Palumbo (1955-56), coach Sam Rutigliano (1978-84), Aaron Shea (2000-2005), Frank Stams (1992-95), Dave Wohlabaugh (1999-2002) and Jamel White (2000-03) signed autographs for and posed for photos with the Special Olympics athletes.
“It’s something when you get an opportunity to have a bunch of young kids come out and use the Browns’ facility, have a good time and experience what the players get to do out here on a daily basis,” Dieken said. “Any ballplayer appreciates the God-given skills that he was given and you’re humbled by seeing other people struggle with those things that you take for granted. It’s an opportunity to get real about life.
“I go back to the late '70s, when we used to go to the Special Olympics and help out. My best thrill was after the event was over, they all stopped and said, ‘Hey, when is it next year? We want to do it again.’ It kind of tells you what good teammates are all about.”
The event is made possible in part with the Doug Dieken Foundation and Cleveland Touchdown Club. Milk for the event was donated by the American Dairy Association Mideast and Aquafina water was donated by Pepsi Beverages Company.
The Cleveland Browns Play 60 program is in association with Cleveland Clinic, Medical Mutual and the American Dairy Association Mideast and Fuel Up to Play 60.