CLEVELAND — For the past week, Luis Muñoz Marín School principal Ricardo Torres has had to be "extra vigilant" when it comes to greeting the more than 500 students here in the morning as they enter the building.
He pointed to the beginnings of a resurfaced basketball court that was paved ahead of Tuesday's 18th annual Hometown Huddle, which watched the Browns, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, United Way of Greater Cleveland and University Hospitals come together to overhaul the school's playground area in association with Republic Services, Sunbelt Rentals and Zenith Systems.
"They want to start playing on it right away," Torres said.
That was evident as his students peeked past doors and looked out windows on an afternoon that saw more than 100 volunteers — including waves of Browns players — refurbish and reconstruct a sparkling new playground.
"I know it definitely means a lot to the community here and it means a lot to us to be able to get out here and help," long snapper Charley Hughlett said.
"This is definitely a team that's committed to Cleveland and the Cleveland area and helping less fortunate areas. We're all so blessed to play football for the Browns and for me personally, I try to get out there as much as possible."
Hughlett, Danny Shelton, Duke Johnson Jr., Andrew Hawkins, Cameron Erving, Austin Pasztor, Corey Lemonier, Britton Colquitt, Cody Parkey, Ibraheim Campbell, Xavier Cooper and Randall Telfer put in work on their off day, helping piece together a playground, lay cement, shovel rocks and mulch among other duties.
Browns players, staff, and volunteers from United Way and University Hospitals came together for the Cleveland Browns 18th annual Hometown Huddle at Luis Munoz Marin School. #give10
Cooper, who offered a short speech to those gathered as part of a ceremony to officially celebrate the day's work, said the Browns want to be involved in the community as much as possible.
"I think it shows the character of our team. Right now we're going through a transition and our record doesn't say a lot, but that's the character of these men that keep on fighting and continue to come out here," he said.
"We're here to give back to the community because hopefully that's what it's all about. We're here to play football but at the same time there's a bigger purpose."
That dynamic, Hawkins said, is a testament to Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam.
"I've said it from Day 1, they're putting their money where their mouth is and putting actions in place for us to be a part of this community," he said. "It trickles down from them to the coaches and the players and that's why there's so many of us out there today."
Tuesday's Hometown Huddle is in line with the team's First and Ten movement, which launched in 2014 and was established to inspire fans to volunteer in and help their communities throughout the world by volunteering for 10 hours each year, was a display of that goal.
"It's just a true collaboration of our First and Ten movement in action," Browns director of community relations Jenner Tekancic.
Through First and Ten, Browns players, coaches, staff and fans have pledged more than 1 million hours of community service since the program's inception. 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. All Browns fans are encouraged to join the volunteering effort by signing the First and Ten pledge on the team's website and by sharing their stories with #give10.
The project also aligns with the Browns PLAY 60 initiative, which inspires kids to be active at least 60 minutes each day. The Browns actively bring PLAY 60 to the local communities throughout the year to ensure kids and families are learning about and taking steps toward healthy lifestyles.
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 Cleveland Browns Foundation is proud to support the 2016 Hometown Huddle. The Cleveland Browns Foundation is dedicated to taking a solution-based, holistic approach to ensure Northeast Ohio youth receive the education and development they need as a foundation for independence and success. As part of the Foundation's commitment to helping eliminate barriers so that students of all backgrounds have access to high-quality education and youth development opportunities, the playground build provides children with a safe space to grow, play and learn.
As part of University Hospitals' yearlong 150th anniversary celebration, the health system's employees are participating in community service projects such as this known as UH Days of Caring.
The Browns also appreciate and recognize the many corporate partners who help make the community impact project a success, including University Hospitals, Republic Services, Sunbelt Rentals, Zenith Systems, Sherwin-Williams, Giant Eagle and Arby's.