The Buffalo Bills are preparing for their game against the Washington Redskins this week, but some of the rookies took an early trip to Toronto on their day off to speak to kids about health and fitness at the Mississauga YMCA on Tuesday evening.
Bills linebacker Kelvin Sheppard has strong ties with the YMCA.
"It's real special for us to give back to the community," said Sheppard. "I was once a kid at the YMCA and if real NFL players were to come and play with me, it would've been amazing and unforgettable. My mom oversees YMCA's in Atlanta so I grew up in the Y and then when I was older I was a camp counselor, so being here is like a trip down memory lane. All today took was a few hours and these children will never forget this."
The collaboration with the YMCA of Greater Toronto is in its second year of a three-year partnership and includes a fitness membership program at all eight Health, Fitness and Recreation Centers in Toronto, the establishment of an NFL flag-style youth football program and the dedication of newly constructed Youth Zones.
Bills rookies includingSheppard, offensive lineman Chris Hairston, defensive back Justin Rogers, defensive back Da' Norris Searcy, tight end Lee Smith, linebacker Chris White, running back Johnny White, defensive back Aaron Williams, wide receiver Kamar Aiken, offensive lineman Michael Jasper, cornerback Doyle Miller, defensive back Joshua Nesbitt and guard Keith Williamsvisited the Mississauga YMCA and ran kids through a Gatorade Junior Training Camp Play 60 event.
The visit to the Mississauga YMCA consisted of the dedication of a newly constructed Youth Zone that includes an air hockey table, Pump-It-Up Pro Dance arcade machine, Slam-N-Jam basketball machine, video games, table tennis table, foosball table, computers, televisions, Bills Fathead wall graphics and furniture. With 93 percent of youth not meeting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day, this Youth Zone will be a place where children ages 8 to 18 can be active in a safe, fun and stimulating environment.
"The creation of the new Youth Zone will provide members with an area designed by them and exclusively for them where they can connect through cool fitness activities," said Mary Owen, Bills executive vice president of strategic planning. "The Bills Toronto Series is proud to again join the YMCA of Greater Toronto to promote the NFL Play 60 initiative and create this great new Youth Zone for kids."
Bills offensive lineman Michael Jasper understood the big picture and kept his competitive edge.
"It's events like these where I truly feel blessed to be in the position I'm in," said Jasper. "Seeing how happy the kids were made the trip worth it, and I would be happy to do it again. I loved the foosball table, Billy Buffalo and I took on some of the youth counselors and we showed them!"
After the dedication of the Youth Zone, the Bills conducted a Gatorade Junior Training Camp interactive football program to stress the importance of physical fitness, good sportsmanship and teamwork for boys and girls ages eight through twelve years old. The camp is part of the Buffalo Bills Play 60 program which encourages children to be physically active for 60 minutes every day.
"Getting these kids up and playing youth football activities was a lot of fun, but it's also about your health and living a healthy lifestyle," said Sheppard. "It's easy to just get up and out there playing with your friends...that's my Play 60 tip for everyone!"
"Daily physical activity is vital for growth of children and teens. With the rise in childhood obesity and chronic health issues, the Y wants to be part of getting kids active and healthy, and thanks to the Bills and Rogers Centre, the Y is able to tackle these issues," said Anthony Ierulli, Mississauga YMCA Health, Fitness & Recreation manager.
"We are very proud to once again partner with the Buffalo Bills and the YMCA on the Youth Zone," noted Silvio D'Addario, Rogers Centre vp of events, and BTS general manager. "This partnership is a great way to give back to the community and for the Bills and the Bills Toronto Series to assist the YMCA in helping shape the youth of the Greater Toronto Area into leaders for our future."
Linebacker Chris White summed up the day.
"It was really cool learning about the partnership between the Bills and Toronto so I'm glad I got to come up and be a part of it," said White. "Now we set the tone for this football week in Canada...this was a great event and now we just need to go up there and finish it off right with a win on Sunday."* *