Food, fun, and football. That was the scene at the Alameda facility for The Oakland Raiders this past weekend. For the 9th year, the Raiders played host to well over 250 kids and their families as the children participated in the two-day non-contact, youth football skills camp.
Raiders players as well as some coaches, along with Bay Area high school and college coaches, instructed the children on the fundamentals of football. Raiders special teams coach John Fassel was one of the instructors for the event.
"It's fantastic. We have [over] 250 kids here and they all have a chance to meet the rookies. It's a great community event. The kids not only get to meet the Raiders, but the players get to see how important it is to be role models. There are the players here and some community coaches here. It's a great opportunity for the kids to learn some football and run around a little bit," Fassel explained.
Among the players that attended the event were the 2009 Raiders rookie class as well as some veterans who decided to take a weekend and give back to the community. Raiders fullback Marcel Reece was one of those veterans.
"I think it's great. I think it's great for all of us. For the kids to be able to come out here and get some exercise in, meet us, have fun, give them something positive, I think it's great. For us as professional athletes, I think it's great for us to be able to give back to our communities and to feel good about what we are doing. We are able to take some time out on our Saturday and give back to the kids. The Raiders love the kids." Reece said.
Another veteran that echoed Reese' sentiments was second year WR Todd Watkins. "It's awesome. I think every team should do something like this. It builds a strong community and sense of pride within your community. For the Bay Area kids to come out and play football with their local team it's awesome," said Watkins. "If I had the opportunity to participate in something like this when I was younger I would have. Now that I am in a position to help I am always willing to."
Raiders first round draft pick Darrius Heyward-Bey was also present and was reminiscent of his days when he attended similar sports camps as a child. "I used to go to the University of Maryland to see [basketball player] Steve Francis play. They used to come out and make me want to play sports more and go out there and strive to be the best," Heyward-Bey said. "It's great to be out here with the kids. I'm having a ball. Even though it's a day off, you are doing the right thing by being out here for the kids and being good role models."
As the children were participating in the drills, the parents looked-on with cameras and video recorders in hand.
One parent, Joe Silva from Fremont, Calif., made this his son's second year in attendance. "It's nice. We are having fun. It's my son's second year. He had a great time last year with the rookies with the drills and the autographs. When we found out they were doing it this year, again he really wanted to come out." Silva stated.
Phil Storch from Alameda, Calif., decided this was an event his grandson would like to participate in. "I brought my grandson out today. I think the event is great. He is really into sports and is really enjoying the event."
The true stars of the day were the children who participated in the event.
Amber F. (12) traveled with her family from Los Angeles to be a part of the event. She is already planning to attend next year's camp. "My favorite part was meeting the players and getting their autographs. This was my first year and I'm planning on coming again next year," Amber said.
Twins Brandon and Justin D. (9), who traveled from Chico, Calif., both participated in the event but had different highlights. "The autographs are the funnest." Justin said. "I liked catching the balls." added Brandon.
The two-day camp, which was sponsored by Lucky and Under Armour, concluded Sunday afternoon with the children taking a tour of the facility and the players' locker room and more football fun.