WR Derek Hagan teams up with Fans Against Violence and speaks to the students of Boys 2 Men Youth Outreach. Photo by Tony Gonzales
WR Derek Hagan and the Raiders teamed up with Fans Against Violence (FAV) to speak to the students of Boys 2 Men Youth Outreach in Oakland. According to their website, "it is FAV's mission to encourage fan safety at professional sporting events through education, discussion and partnerships with like-minded organizations. We believe that attending sporting events is an act of fellowship and community between fans, and that each person who attends a professional sporting event should feel safe and be protected by the hosting facility and franchise."
FAV and Hagan wanted to address the importance of sportsmanship, as well as mitigating violence in the community. "There is so much violence that goes on in the world, but when it comes to sports, that's one thing we should not have at all," said Hagan. "Obviously, playing sports is something we love to do and people like to watch it and when you're out watching games you definitely want to be able to come to the game and enjoy it and not have to worry about anything. As long as we keep doing what we're doing and playing and people are actually following along with what we're doing, I think everything will be just fine."
The kids of Boys 2 Men Youth Outreach often deal with crime and violence. "We're dealing with inner youth kids, dealing with everyday life, going to school, dealing with crime that's infected in the area, but they're always keeping their heads up and they're moving forward," said Craig Johnson, Public Relations Director for Boys 2 Men Youth Outreach. "What they're trying to do is upgrade their academic ability in Oakland Unified School District and broaden their horizons to be doctors, lawyers, presidents, so whatever we can do here to help these kids at the after school program. It's good to see the Raider affiliates come on out, players come out, Gorilla Rilla from the Raider Nation, to East Oakland because these kids are smiling because you came."
Reverend Cornell Gilkey, director of Boys 2 Men Youth Outreach and Girls 2 Women Youth Outreach, has specific goals for the students who participate in his program. "The purpose of Boys 2 Men Youth Outreach is to decrease the violence in the Oakland community, to turn boys and girls into respectful, successful, productive young boys and girls with a positive outlook on life," said Reverend Gilkey. "Our goal is to lead the youth in the right direction, be a positive interaction between students and adults, increase their confidence level and show youth positive ways to alternatives to a variety of situations by teaching diversity, leadership, cultural awareness, coping skills, and building up their self-esteem and their discipline by discovering one's strengths and abilities."
Not only did the students have the opportunity to meet Hagan, but they also had a chance to earn tickets to a Raiders game by writing about how they would end violence. "We hope that they, for one, have a great time at the game," said Kathy Samoun, founder of FAV. "I really want them to have a wonderful experience they might not have. We're hoping they also learn a small lesson in sportsmanship and what it means to be a fan and that it doesn't matter the color you wear, we're all sports fans in the end. It's just a game and we're all here to have fun."
Hagan hopes they kids remember to never give up on their dreams. "Knowing that every child growing up has a dream and they just need to stick with it," said Hagan. "If their dream is to become a doctor, a lawyer or a teacher, just keep your mind to it, keep going for it, strive to be the best. Like me, I know what I'm doing right now, playing football, is a dream come true for me. Dreams can happen if you dream big and keep striving for that."
The Raiders visit was overwhelming for Reverend Gilkey. "To have a Raider to actually come here, especially at this point in time, for these youth to know that a person like him with his stature with him being a professional athlete coming here, it means the world to us," said Reverend Gilkey. "We don't get this type of stuff here and for him to come here and take time out in his life just to share with these children here, it means the world to me. I can't explain what it means to me; it's just so touching just to have him here. Right now, today, is a holiday for us here at Boys 2 Men Youth Outreach."
Reverend Gilkey and his staff were grateful that the Raiders and FAV could come spend time with them. "For this to happen today is just an honor having them here and get to see their faces and to uplift them and to know that their future is bright," said Reverend Gilkey. "We just want to thank everybody with the Raiders organization for allowing this to happen."
The Raiders have teamed up with FAV all season to highlight fan interaction at the stadium with the FanShake™. The two are working together as part of the Raiders continuing efforts to provide a safe, secure, family friendly environment.