KENTON —Tackling, blocking and scoring touchdowns were skills youth and young adults with disabilities learned Friday night during a special football camp in Kenton.
“Never Give Up Football Camp” in its first year was held at Robinson Field. It was the idea of Zach Turner, Kenton Middle School football coach and eighth-grade special education teacher, and Drey Dearing, a football coach for Kenton High School.
Participants ranged from ages 4 to 60. There were 30 people from Kenton, Lima and Findlay who showed up to play with their caregivers and family sitting in the stands cheering them on. The Kenton High School Marching Band and cheerleaders and Kenton Midget Cheerleaders played music and cheered during the drills and flag football game.
“We thought it would be a great experience for kids who may not otherwise have an opportunity to play football,” Turner said.
Dearing said football and life go hand in hand. When facing adversity in the sport, as in life, players learn values and how to have a good work ethic.
Former and current Kenton High School Wildcat football players coached the camp-goers. Stations were set up where campers could do an obstacle course and learned how to tackle, practice blocking, run to score a touchdown and catch the football and fall onto a mat.
James Champagne, 25, Bell Center, attended the camp with his caregiver Julie Wireman, who said it warms her heart to see smiles on the faces of those who she cares for.
“This camp helps those with disabilities feel a sense of belonging to the community and helps them burn off energy,” Wireman said. Champagne has special needs and participates in Special Olympics where he bowls and plays softball. His favorite football team is Cleveland Browns and he said he liked to do the drills at the camp.
“I feel happy to do this and get this game going,” Champagne said.
Austin Phillips, 22, graduated in 2015 from Kenton High School and played football and basketball at the high school. He threw the football back and forth to Champagne as they talked about sports. Phillips has two years of football eligibility left at Ashland University and said football has taught him about perseverance.
“It’s good to see how positive these kids and adults are and makes you realize the things we take for granted in life,” Phillips said. “I hope they realize that no matter what disability they have that doesn’t mean they can’t do what they put their mind to.”
Brent Fackler, Kenton High School head football coach, also worked with the campers.
“This gets those with disabilities out and enjoying the game of football. The players want to pass on the love they have for the game to those participating in the camp,” Fackler said.
Participants received a T-shirt and red jersey purchased by local businesses who made financial donations.
Proceeds from the event were split between Kenton Midget Football and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Reach Jennifer Peryam at 567-242-0362.