An Aunt’s Story…

Dear Buddy,

We just finished our first Kids and Pros Football camp in Warner Robins. I feel compelled to email you for several reasons.

My great-nephew, Mychael, who is seven, has loved football since he was about two years old when he saw the mighty mite kids playing at the Warner Robins recreation department. I dreaded the day when he was old enough to play because I have heard, and lived, the horror stories of football. My brother was training to play with the pros when he was tackled and someone stepped on his facemask, which collapsed and push his nose through his skull. He had brain surgery and thank God, he was ok. However, he could no longer play pro football and he did not have a “Plan B”. I have also heard the horror stories in the news about the NFL payers and concussions, head injuries, orthopedic problems, etc, so I was not thrilled that this child I love so much was interested in football!

I am still recovering from a broken knee cap and almost didn’t walk to the fire station for the Parent Information Session Tuesday evening because I was afraid I wouldn’t make it. I am thankful I went. My attitude about football changed dramatically after hearing you speak on the health and safety of football tactics and practices. I was relieved to hear that things in football have changed for the best and that everyone is now putting the safety of the children first. I promise, your information and that of the other speakers added about 15 years to my life! Mychael can now play football without me standing on the sidelines with an EMT and doctor and running to him every time he falls. He will thank you for that one day!

Also, Tuesday night when the coaches were giving their testimony, it literally brought tears to my eyes. I had started this email to you last night but every time I tried to write it, I just started crying. I’m sorry-I am terrible with names and can’t remember the names of the coaches who spoke, but please let them know what I am about to tell you.

Mychael comes from a broken home.  His father lives out of state so he doesn’t get to see him much.  He has been through a lot in his little seven years. My husband and my sister’s husband, take up as much time with Mychael as they can, but they both work.  Mychael still misses his father very much.  We know it must be hard for a seven year old to understand not being able to see his Father every day.

When the one of the former NFL alumni spoke about his father’s AND mother’s incarceration, and all he had to look up to was his grandmother, I lost it. Everything he was saying was so similar to what this child has been through. It made me cry because I was sad for him, but also, because it gave me hope for Mychael. I thanked God for sending the words to that speaker when he told those kids that just because his mom and dad made bad decisions, didn’t mean he had to make them. His having a Plan B and Plan C and D was amazing. Telling those kids to never give up was the best thing he could tell them. Shoot, he made ME not want to give up!

If this coach can grow up in the ‘hood, as he put it, go through life without a mom or dad, obtain a college education, play pro football, and then COME BACK to the town and the hood he grew up in and give back so much, that gives ME a lot of hope for Mychael and all the children in the same position. Mychael and most of the other kids were hanging on every word those speakers were saying. We talk to them all day and sure, they may listen if we make them, they may remember some of what we say. But when a professional football player who they think hung the moon stands in front of them and says hey- just because your mom or dad or your cousin made bad decisions doesn’t mean you have to, they will listen.

And then tonight….Mychael and I were walking to the field. He was upset and didn’t feel good-he really didn’t want to go to camp. I told him that was fine-we didn’t have to stay, but if he didn’t do the work tonight, he would not go to the party tomorrow night. That’s when Coach Solomon walked up. He didn’t know what was going on but he could tell Mychael was not feeling well. He put his arm around his shoulder and talked to him and said, “hey man, just come on and try it and do as much as you can. If you can’t stay then leave when you can’t take it no more.” Mychael said ok. Well guess what…he stayed the entire time! Just something that simple for someone we don’t even know to come up and help encourage this child and let him know y’all are there for him means so much. One day Mychael will look back on this and I pray remembers how much kindness you and the other coaches have shown to him.

I know this camp costs a lot of money and I know, thankfully, you have a lot of corporate sponsors, and I just want you and them to know how much I appreciate what you do. I love this child so much and will do anything for him. But what your camp provided this last couple of days, I couldn’t buy from anywhere. It would not be “real” to these kids if we paid someone to just say all these things. Hearing it from men who have lived it, that makes it real to these kids and they will remember it.

I don’t have the words to thank you for what you have given this little boy whom I love with all my heart. I will be drawing on the words I heard from those speakers for a very long time.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart,

Aunt Vicki

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