By U.S. ArmyNovember 19, 2013
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Take 150 exited youth, throw in a field of football-themed activities, add a sprinkling of professional National Football League players and you wind up with a fun-filled evening like the one that was had when the Baltimore Ravens brought the NFL Play 60 youth combine to Aberdeen Proving Ground Nov. 5.
The NFL Play 60 is a national youth health and fitness campaign focused on increasing the wellness of young fans by encouraging them to be active for at least 60 minutes a day.
In conjunction with the NFL's military appreciation Salute to Service and Play 60 campaign efforts, the Baltimore Ravens provided the event to communicate the importance of physical activity to military youth.
Approximately 150 youth ages 7 to 14 attended the event which focused on the fundamentals of football. Baltimore Ravens players in attendance included wide receivers Torrey Smith, Marlon Brown and Denote Thompson; linebackers Arthur Brown, Jameel McClain and John Simon; safeties Matt Elam and Jeromy Miles; and defensive tackle Brandon Williams. The Raven's official mascot Poe and several Ravens cheerleaders also were in attendance.
Hosted by APG's Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, the Play 60 event was held on the Child, Youth and School Services (CYSS) sports field. Play 60 coaches, led by Tom LaNeve or "Coach Tom" divided the purple t-shirt-clad children into groups and ran them through stations focused on passing, catching, agility and other skills.
"The Baltimore Ravens organization is totally committed to the community," LaNeve said, "and we're honored to be able to come to a military community. My idea is that if you keep the mind moving the body will follow and we're excited and eager to have some fun. It's all about the kids."
Excitement built before the activities began when the Baltimore Ravens players arrived by bus to delighted screams as they ran through two rows of children lining the field, delivering high--fives along the way. Leading the way onto the field was APG Senior Leader Maj. Gen. Robert Ferrell and Poe, the Raven's mascot.
The opening ceremony preceding the activities included the presentation of colors by Soldiers of the 203rd Military Intelligence Battalion (TECHINT) led by Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Grimshaw and the singing of the national anthem by 15-year-old Taylor Brown, the daughter of George Brown, a CECOM civilian. Twelve Soldiers from various APG units served as volunteers and player assistants.
Bill Kegley, CYSS youth sports director said the CYSS youth had never been more excited. He thanked the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, the Army Test and Evaluation Command's Aberdeen Test Center and other organizations that supported the FMWR/CYSS function.
"This was a great event for our kids, one they'll remember a long time," Kegley said.
He added that youth center members regularly attend Ravens training camp sessions and that planning for the event was initiated in August.
Parents said they were just as excited as their children.
"This was a lot more elaborate than I thought, I didn't realize it would be this big a deal," said CERDEC Electronics Technician Nathan Grogan, who said he learned about the event from his wife, RDECOM civilian Karen Grogan. Their 7-year-old son Zach had a great time, Grogan said.
"I was expecting a meet-and-greet but this was much better."
Kevin Vickers, a sergeant first class with the 430th Transportation Company out of Fort Meade, Md., said his daughters Tiarah, 9 and Mia, 7, and his wife, Shellyann "had a ball."
"They couldn't wait to get here," he said, "and they don't know a thing about football but they did real well. They'll sleep good tonight."