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On June 29, beneath the bright, blue northeast Ohio sky, the white t-shirts worn by nearly 150 children of military families stood out starkly against the green grass of the Cleveland Browns’ training facility in Berea, Ohio.
The children were invited by the Browns organization to participate in an NFL Play 60 event with the 125 rookies of all 16 AFC teams during the 2012 NFL Rookie Symposium, held in Ohio from June 30 to July 2.
“This was an awesome experience for the kids and adults, too,” said Lt. Cmdr. Josh Bauman, of the 9th Coast Guard District Command Center. “It was great to see the NFL open this up for military kids. They endure so much; this opportunity gave them such a positive experience that they will remember for the rest for their lives.”
Play 60 is the NFL’s program designed to encourage kids to perform at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day to combat childhood obesity.
Twenty eight children, ages 7-12, of active-duty, reserve and civilian Coast Guard employees were there, rotating between groups of players from each team. Each group had children performing different football drills, ranging from dodging a blocker and catching a pass from quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, first-round draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts, or taking a handoff from Browns’ first-round pick Brandon Weeden.
“It was the best football thing I ever did,” said Joshua Bauman, Jr. “I got to meet all the AFC rookies and do football drills.”
While parents watched intently from the sidelines, children at different stations roared with excitement while tackling a dummy and chased after a simulated fumble. Celebratory touchdown dances came after outrunning an NFL player and spiking a ball in the end zone. By the end of the morning, the once-white shirts were covered in grass stains from diving catches and bouncing to the ground after trying to run through blocking pads.
When the morning’s activities came to a close, the smell of burgers and hot dogs cooking on a huge outdoor grill wafted across the field. Each group of children, and all the NFL rookies, sat down for lunch followed by ice cream sandwiches. Amidst the chocolate-covered smiles and high fives between the players and children, markers came out as players signed shirts and hats.
“I had so much fun being at the practice field and sharing time with my son and daughter,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Hutton, a storekeeper with Coast guard Base Support Detachment, Cleveland. “My son Caleb got to meet all the rookies and run all the drills. He is going to be playing football this year in our city’s peewee league, and this experience helped him to see how much fun football can be. This is something my family won’t soon forget.”