NFL Play 60 Character Camp

Just last week, it was my honor to attend the NFL Play 60 Character Camp hosted at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The program, a partnership between the NFL and Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive tackle, Anthony Muñoz, is a Hispanic outreach initiative, which offers children the opportunity to play and experience the game of football as well as meet players. The camp focuses on building character and teamwork.

Gina Ruiz | Doña Lupe’s Kitchen
Insert awed “oohs” here. This is the player tunnel.

I walked into the player’s tunnel in awe. This is where the players run out onto the field and to be honest, I’d never imagined doing such a thing. It was a thrill and in the cool, shadowy dark of the tunnel, I could almost imagine those athletes, pumped up and ready to play running down it. At the end of the tunnel was the Coliseum and it seemed strange to see those seats empty, expectant almost. Three hundred or so excited children dressed in their Play 60 t-shirts were jabbering, the sun was shining, photographers walked around setting up shots and the voice of Micheal Muñoz, the son of Anthony was speaking to the children about building character. He spoke of diversity and teamwork and, I was pleased to see, the kids were inspired and in awe. When Anthony Muñoz came to speak, the crowd went wild. The kids were so excited by being in the Coliseum, something many of them live nearby, but never get to see the inside of. They were dazzled by the Rams cheerleaders and Rampage, the Ram’s mascot. Still, they listened and paid close attention. They were just as dazzled by the NFL players speaking to them as they were by the excitement of the event.

Gina Ruiz | Doña Lupe’s Kitchen
Everyone is a hero today. High -five from Rampage and cheers from the LA Rams Cheerleaders

After the speeches, the kids were divided up into teams and got their chance to run through the player’s tunnel. From the looks and sounds, they were as thrilled as I had been. Meeting them at the end of the tunnel the cheerleaders were cheering them on, and Rampage, the mascot, was high-fiving each one as they came out. So many of the children stopped to take selfies with Rampage, one young girl, squealed, “I just have to hug him!” She did. Some kids had tears in their eyes and some were just overcome, but all, even the shiny-eyed ones were grinning ear to ear.

Gina Ruiz | Doña Lupe’s Kitchen
It doesn’t get better than this! Look at that smile

I spent a couple of hours at the camp watching the kids play games based on flag football. Anthony Muñoz’, the cheerleaders, Rampage and the NFL players that were there: #24 Blake Countess, #77 Andrew Whitworth, #68 Jamon Brown, and #79 Rob Havenstein all took time out to answer the kid’s questions, sign t-shirts and take photos. They were so incredibly giving of their time and the kids glowed from the attention.

Gina Ruiz | Doña Lupe’s Kitchen
She’s not letting the boys have ALL the fun!

I also had the honor of speaking to Anthony Muñoz, who was so down to earth and kind. He was more than generous with his time and spoke to me of how much hosting these camps meant to him. He honestly loved giving back to the community through his foundation and felt he got more out of it than the kids did. He was in his element, a true giving spirit. He told me that the camp was set up to teach health, fitness, character building, and respect. From what I could see, it was working. The kids, ages from about eight years old to middle school age, were having the time of their lives. I spoke to one young lady, who declined to give me her name. She said, “I don’t know anything about football, or how to play it, but I’m not letting the boys have all the fun.” She then ran off football in hand and did her level best to hurl it across the field. At the end of the event, all the children were surprised by the NFL with two free tickets to Saturday’s game! I think the camp more than fulfilled its purpose. Do you have any great LA Rams stories?

 

Check out the slideshow below for more fun photos of the event.

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