The NFL holds many events in schools across the country, and the reaction is always the same. The children are ecstatic about meeting an NFL player.
Still, today’s event at King-Chavez Preparatory School here in San Diego was palpably different, as
“A lot of times I think all I need to do is touch five-to-ten (kids) and I know that could spread,” Spikes side as he explained why the day was special to him. “But today was different. I really felt like I touched the majority of the kids today. They were very in tune and they wanted to know. It’s not like I was trying to force feed them. And it’s good when you always have somebody who you’re talking to that has the want-to about them.”
Spikes was on hand to give out a $10,000 grant to the school as part of the league wide NFL PLAY 60 initiative. For him, the chance to speak to the kids about a healthy lifestyle was an opportunity he didn’t want to waste.
“Anytime you’re able to come back and give back to kids with the opportunity to preach PLAY 60, well I’ve been living PLAY 60 my entire life before I even knew it was called PLAY 60,” he said. “It starts out as something small, but to realize that a third of all kids in our generation suffer from obesity and being overweight, it’s important for us to teach these kids that something small can turn into something serious like diabetes, heart problems or hypertension.”
One school in each of the 32 NFL markets and two non-NFL markets were selected as NFL PLAY 60 Super Schools, receiving the grant for health and wellness programming or equipment and a visit from NFL players.
“Looking at the needs in this community, we really saw that so many of our students are dealing every day with different choices that they have to face in regards to being healthy academically, physically and mentally,” said the school’s principal Laura Todd. “This grant really gives us an opportunity to send the right message to our students about a healthy lifestyle for their futures. Some of the things we plan on putting the money toward are of course updated sports equipment and finding new ways to keep our students healthy and active. Another way we will use the money is in our after school food program, Barrio Bites. Our teacher who runs it is a culinary chef, and he’s been teaching the students about healthy choices in what they eat.”
The event kicked off with Spikes meeting in the principal’s office with 20 select students, where they discussed a wide range of topics. Then, the Chargers star linebacker was brought outside to speak before the hundreds of children. Spikes focused on the importance of a healthy lifestyle, and explained how he has spent his whole life practicing the principals of NFL PLAY 60. The ceremony continued with what was supposed to be a short, five-question Q & A session, but Spikes was having such a good time that he let the kids go far beyond the allotted question limit. What I liked about it was that I envision myself as a kid,” he said. “I never had the opportunity to sit down and talk to a professional athlete. So to be able to sit down and answer the questions, it’s good because I know it will be something that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.”
After a couple photo ops, in which he was given a King-Chavez school t-shirt that he proudly wore, Spikes led 50 students out to the fields and took part in a special gym period with the children. The quality time they spent with an exemplary role model like Spikes was equally as important as the grant money the school received.
“It was an absolute pleasure to have Takeo out here today,” Todd explained. “He was so personable and loved the kids. And the kids were so excited. I’ve already heard some of them saying that this is the best experience of their life.”