The gymnasium at CMSD's Wade Park School was full of raucous cheers and applause Tuesday, as the students were rewarded for all of their hard work. After winning the Cleveland Browns and NFL/ Fuel Up to Play 60 Hometown Grant, the students were treated to a visit by Browns players Johnson Bademosi and Ibraheim Campbell as well as Browns mascot Chomps.
But the biggest ovation came when the players presented the school with a giant check for $10,000.
Wade Park received the $10,000 NFL/Fuel Up to Play 60 Hometown Grant through the Cleveland Browns and the American Dairy Association Mideast for winning the Fuel Up to Play 60 wellness program. It was a two-pronged effort measured by steady attendance and ensuring that students ate breakfast every morning at school.
By the end of the program, Wade Park had more than doubled its number of students eating breakfast, with nearly 95 percent of students eating breakfast before their classes. These two keys to success were repeated by Bademosi and Campbell when talking to the students.
"You need fuel to perform mentally and physically and that fuel is breakfast," Bademosi said. "I think breakfast – the same way it's important for kids, it's important for professional athletes and everybody."
Wade Park Principal Lee Buddy Jr. and his staff created a program to ensure that enough students were eating breakfast every day, even walking students who arrived tardy down to the cafeteria to fuel up with a healthy breakfast.
"We do notice when students come late and may not have a chance to eat breakfast," he said. "They get a pass and we walk them down to eat breakfast, just to make sure that they start their day right and they're able to focus."
That caring attitude is something Buddy strives to instill within his students, as he says that the school pushes a big family atmosphere. That was on full display during the assembly, as students went wild with applause each time a classmate's name was called as a prize-winner.
Students at Wade Park Elementary won the Browns Fuel Up to Play 60 challenge, and were visited by Browns players this week.
The students repeatedly asked Buddy over the past few weeks if and when the players were coming. And he kept on re-iterating that, yes, the players were going to visit. And when it finally came to fruition, Buddy was impressed by the energy and liveliness showed by the players.
"It means a lot because they really are part of our Cleveland community, and I think a lot of the students saw that too," he said. "It really was a good thing just to see the excitement and the energy from the players towards our students here."
For Bademosi – who was giving hugs and high-fives, and interviewing every winner on the microphone – he was genuinely excited to be around the students.
"That's always a lot of fun, to see kids excited about football, excited about the Browns," Bademosi said. "I feed off their energy, so I love doing it
After the assembly, the players sat down with a few students who were selected for particular excellence. That's when Bademosi received a challenge. One of the students is a wide receiver on a youth football team, and wanted to test his skills against Bademosi.
"You've got to keep it competitive, I'm not just going to give it to him," Bademosi said. "I told him 'I'm going to lock you down, I do this for a living'"
Bademosi and Campbell both attended prestigious universities – Stanford and Northwestern, respectively – so their message centered on taking care of academics first.
"Football's a lot of fun," Bademosi said, "but in order to play football, you need to take care of those things first.
Attendance is the obvious first step to thriving in school, and Wade Park took it further by increasing hot breakfasts at school every morning. The primary goal of CMSD's "Get 2 School! You Can Make It!" campaign – which the Cleveland Browns Foundation joined as a partner – is to increase attendance and reduce chronic absences. Adding breakfast to the equation gives students another reason to show up, while giving them the energy they need to succeed.
Jan Diamond, School Wellness Manager for ADA Mideast, praised the students for making strives in both areas."They earned this reward," she said. "Everyone did their part in coming to school, everyone did their part in eating breakfast."
That reward means a lot for Wade Park School. Funds are often hard to come by for schools like Wade Park, and Buddy said the $10,000 will go a long way.
But as Diamond said – and Buddy agreed – this is all because of the hard work of the Wade Park students. And seeing that hard work come to fruition is something Buddy hopes will stick with the students.
"I think it really just teaches them that when they work hard towards something," said Buddy, "that they do get rewarded for it."
In 2015, the Browns are continuing their commitment to #give10 through the team's First and Ten initiative. Launched in June 2014, the Cleveland Browns First and Ten campaign is the team's 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. For more information visit www.ClevelandBrowns.com/community