The Browns hosted approximately 900 Cleveland Metropolitan School District Special Olympics athletes and coaches for a Browns PLAY 60 football festival Friday.
Cleveland Touchdown Club Charities and Browns Legend Doug Dieken began the event nearly two decades ago, providing special-needs athletes the chance to play the game of football.
While Dieken has been tied to the program for quite some time, more Browns alumni, including Jamie Caleb, Ernie Kellerman, Kevin Mack, Dave Puzzuoli, John Thierry and Jamel White, also volunteered at the event.
Dieken believes he was fortunate to play all sports at such a high level. He hopes this event provides that opportunity for everyone.
“These are the greatest natural athletes because they do it for the fun of it,” Dieken said.
Utilizing the fieldhouse in the offseason, the Browns and Cleveland Touchdown Club Charities collaborated to implement this annual program and create an unforgettable party of sorts for the kids.
With the goal of inclusion, the Cleveland Touchdown Club Charities host recognition programs and donate grants and scholarships to individuals who are connected to the sport but may not necessarily play, such as football managers and trainers.
Cleveland Touchdown Club Charities provided and served lunch for all Special Olympics athletes, coaches and educators in the Browns cafeteria. Fuel Up to Play 60 also provided enough milk for all attendees.
Louis Carouse, a Cleveland Touchdown Club Charities volunteer, has been a member for a total of 20 years. He chooses to be a part of the Special Olympics event specifically because it aligns with the mission of Cleveland Touchdown Club Charities, “providing youth a sporting chance.”
“I gain satisfaction from seeing the looks on the kids’ faces,” Carouse said. “It’s like seeing someone get a good Christmas present on Christmas day, it just fills your heart.”
The spirit of volunteerism was contagious and The Browns First and Ten initiative was active throughout the celebration as volunteers from all of the participating organizations chose to #give10 and help create special memories for Special Olympics guests.
As athletes from more than 30 schools filed onto the field and began to play, Dieken remembered why he chooses to come back each year and volunteer his time even though his brother no longer participates.
“The reward is seeing the kids smile and have a good time,” Dieken said. “This is our combine.”
Through events like the Special Olympics Play 60 football festival, camps, clinics and other football-based initiatives, the Browns strive to provide quality programs to ensure the youth of today are involved with the sport for generations to come.
Each person from the more than 32 CMSD schools who joined the festivities also received a complimentary drawstring bag, made possible by University Hospitals. University Hospitals and American Dairy Association Mideast contributed additional prizes.
The Browns are continuing their commitment to #give10 throughout the offseason after engaging the community throughout the season each Tuesday on the players’ day off. Launched in June 2014, the Cleveland Browns First and Ten campaign is the team’s new community program, established to inspire fans to volunteer in and help their communities throughout the world by volunteering for 10 hours each year. Through First and Ten, the Browns are the only NFL club to promote a long-term volunteering program that unifies the team and its entire fan base, with the goal of impacting every individual’s city across the globe, as well as the franchise’s local community.
Visit ClevelandBrowns.com/community to take the pledge to #give10 and help your community. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter @BrownsGiveBack to share your story of how you #give10.
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 University Hospitals 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.
About Cleveland Metropolitan Schools Special Olympics:
Cleveland Metropolitan Schools Special Olympics’ mission is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of sports. The program is designed for students within the district with intellectual disabilities. Cleveland Metropolitan Schools Special Olympics programs provide continual opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of skills and friendship with families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.