Joel Bitonio smiled for photos Saturday morning as he played host at the Adapted Football League All-Star Game and Awards Banquet.
The Browns left guard said it was the least he could do to give back to those gathered at the team’s Berea facility for the program’s capstone event.
“It’s cool for me, I just love seeing them out there playing and to kind of see them take a picture or celebrate after they score,” Bitonio said. “It’s easy for me, but if it makes a memory for them I’m all for it.”
The Adapted Football League, which is supported by the Browns, is the first competitive adapted football program in Ohio that lets school-aged children and young adults with physical and/or cognitive disabilities the chance participate in an organized form of the sport.
Hosted by the Browns and Achievement Centers for Children, Saturday marked the completion of the seventh season of the Adapted Football League. The athletes played inside the Browns’ indoor fieldhouse before an awards presentation honoring them, their coaches, volunteers and families.
The 2017 season recorded the highest number of participants since the program's inception with more than 120 athletes and 150 volunteers. The Adapted Football League offers a foundation for success by focusing on skill development, socialization and physical activity. Those building blocks help prepare participants for achievement and growth now and in the future.
“It’s a whole community effort,” said Mike Urban, the Achievement Centers for Children’s manager of sports programs. “The outreach is tremendous.”
That, of course, includes Bitonio, who recently returned to Cleveland after visiting fans in London ahead of the club’s game against the Vikings in October at Twickenham Stadium. Bitonio was joined by Browns receiver Rannell Hall and alums Ernie Kellerman, Doug Dieken, Dave Mays and Dave Puzzuoli.
“Being out here with these kids is pretty cool experience,” Bitonio said.
“They love the game of football, they love having fun. To kind of see them all scoring and celebrating, it’s a cool experience to celebrate with them.”
About the Cleveland Browns and Browns Give Back:
The Browns Give Back to Northeast Ohio with a commitment to education and youth football while engaging the community through the team’s signature First and Ten volunteer movement. For more information, visitwww.clevelandbrowns.com/brownsgiveback.
About Achievement Centers for Children:
Achievement Centers for Children empowers children and adults with disabilities and their families to achieve their greatest potential. Children at the Achievement Centers may have a wide range of disabilities including physical, neurological, sensory, and cognitive or a combination of conditions. In the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the Achievement Centers served more than 2,500 children and their families through a variety of services and programs. It serves families from all income levels, and its innovative programs and services focus on the key areas of education and autism services; therapy services and the intensive therapy clinic; family support services; and recreation and adapted sports.