Stroud celebrates sweetness

Sweetness overflowed on Tuesday when Marcus Stroud, Buffalo Bills defensive tackle, made a rousing appearance at a packed and loud gymnasium at Blasdell Elementary, but fourth-grade student Darian Whitmore was the center of attention.

The Buffalo Bills, Perry's Ice Cream and Blasdell Elementary celebrated the 9-year-old Whitmore with the 2008 Perry's Ice Cream "Sweetest Kid" award. Perry's ran the "Sweetest Kid of the Week" promotion for eight weeks through October 20th where teachers, community member, coaches, parents and others nominated students in grades 4-8. The nomination had to describe outstanding academic, athletic and community achievements. There were eight weekly winners and Whitmore was chosen among them for the grand prize.

Part of the award was a Perry's Ice Cream party for Whitmore and his entire school with Marcus Stroud .

The atmosphere in the gym was electric. Stroud high-fived all the students and was seemingly surrounded at all times by kids. "This is great," said Whitmore. "Awesome," said another student. "I love the Bills and Billy Buffalo," replied another student. Principal Linda Dansa said, "The kids are so excited. This is a great experience for them."

Stroud took pictures and signed autographs with Darian, his grandparents, teachers, and classmates. Darian and his fellow classmates were able to ask questions of Stroud. Darian asked, "If you get injured, where do you go?" Stroud replied that it was the training room but that he hopefully doesn't have to visit their too often.

The class asked a question about Stroud's Foundation and found out that he is having a book drive so that he can deliver books to kids less fortunate. By the end of the session, Darian volunteered to be the committee chair for a new class project as they decided they wanted to create a program to collect books for Stroud and his Foundation. Stroud was moved and appreciated the impromptu gesture from the kids, and he thanked the students for their thoughtfulness.

Stroud said that he came to Buffalo to help the team win a Super Bowl, he loved to travel and when his playing days are over he wants to teach and coach little league. He was also asked by one of the students, "If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?" Stroud replied with laughter, "I'd go to Italy and eat spaghetti…as you can see, I love food!"

An emphasis was placed on getting an education and working hard by Stroud to all the students. "If anything is worth having, it's worth working for," said Stroud. "No matter how hard, keep plugging and you can make it happen."

"You gave Darian (and the rest of us) a day he will remember for the rest of his life," said Marie Simoncelli, one of Darian's teachers. "Darian Whitmore is a great kid and will be a successful young man."

Simoncelli and Martha Swarts, Darian's other teacher, noted, "Darian comes from a sad background. He lost both of his parents under violent circumstances when he was 4. He and his two older brothers are being raised by their grandparents. He comes to school every day eager to learn and helps out anyone who crosses his path. He always has his homework done and in 3rd grade he was the chairperson of our courtyard beautification and recycling committees. He has participated in numerous community service projects and also plays baseball on a community team."

Robert Denning, president and chief executive officer, Perry's Ice Cream said, "Perry's is dedicated to supporting our local schools. Our partnership with the Buffalo Bills for the 'Sweetest Kid of the Week' promotion gives us the honorable opportunity to celebrate a special student who is making a difference in our community and in the lives of others."

Darian Whitmore more than fits the title of "Sweetest Kid."

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