By Vince Agnew, Player Engagement Insider
Have you ever felt remorse for giving your child a bath, brushing their teeth, or pouring them a glass of water? Have you ever questioned if your water source has been laced with lead, how long the government knew about it, or how much longer before it will be safe again? For the 425,000 people of Flint, Michigan’s metropolitan this is a sad reality, but veteran NFL cornerback Brandon Carr, currently with the Dallas Cowboys, is looking to inspire his hometown in the ways that he knows best.
The most devastating fact of the crisis is that children under the age of five are, by and large, the most affected. It can have a profound effect on their growth, behavior and mental development—effects that will be evident for generations. Carr is also bidding to have a profound effect on children’s growth, behavior, and mental development with the help of the city that he calls home.
Through his Carr Cares Foundation, which focuses on youth education and healthy lifestyles, he donated $110,000 dollars in an effort to bring clean water to Flint’s neighborhoods. However, the sum of money may have been one of the least impactful things he contributed during a recent trip to Michigan. Carr hosted his third annual Brandon Carr Elite Youth Football Camp on June 11th that saw over 300 student-athletes—first through 12 grades—take over his former middle school’s facilities at Carman-Ainsworth. Carr, along with a team of volunteers, collegiate standouts, and area high school coaches put on an all-day event free of charge for the youth. Many in attendance for the football skills camp were from the Flint area and others came from hours away to be a part of this year’s event, with all donations and proceeds going to the city.
NFL players in attendance included Flint native and Jacksonville Jaguar’s linebacker Dan Skuta, veteran offensive lineman Cameron Bradfield (Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals), second year defensive back Deji Olatoye of the Dallas Cowboys, and nine-year defensive end Wallace Gilberry of the Detroit Lions.
The camp joined families from around the area, inspired a competitive atmosphere and delivered meaningful messages to the youth. “To have Brandon and other pro guys come here is an incredible experience for those kids,” said Flint Carman-Ainsworth head football coach Jerry Parker, whose entire coaching staff volunteered at the event. “To see someone from our community that made it out, is very important to them—to see someone in their same position from the Flint area, see the hard work that he’s put in, and to know that it is attainable to reach that goal.”
At the close of the camp, Carr left the student-athletes with a message of commitment to hard work, focus, doing things the right way and never letting anyone tell them they cannot achieve greatness.
“It was especially important this summer because of everything the people of Flint have been through,” Carr said. “We wanted to get their mind off of the negative things and just have some good competitive fun.”
If eight hours of competition on a 90-degree summer day was not enough, immediately following the camp, many went directly to another Flint-area facility at Davison High School where Davison’s head football coach, Kyle Zimmerman, organized the inaugural Flint Area High School All-Star Football Game in partnership with Carr’s Foundation.
“It’s amazing to be able to touch so many area kids in one day,” Zimmerman said. “One game is not going to make a big impact initially, but hopefully it grows so that we can really make a larger impact down the road for kids in this area.”
Carr was the honorary host performing the coin toss for the game that saw 28 area high schools represented by over 70 student-athletes, some of the best recruits in the state. The high school seniors suited up in front of a crowd of over 2,000 in a true representation of Flint that was also reflected in the team names—Rise and Grind. There was no shortage of highlights early by Team Rise, and resolve by Team Grind to battle back and make a tackle on the game’s final play at the goal line to win—21-17.
“Team Rise didn’t lose. Everyone won in that situation. The kids, coaches, the city, the Carr Cares Foundation, everyone,” Parker said at the end of the day. “The kids had a great experience to play in that first all-star game and I felt blessed to be a part of that whole week.”
The bulk of the games proceeds went to the foundation, which then will be distributed to various youth groups around Flint affected by the contaminated water.
The water crisis may have temporarily crippled the city, but the example set and the message delivered by Carr and others around the city stands tall. The small seeds planted today can create solutions to tomorrow’s problems. The platform that football brings to the metropolitan rings a harmony that silences the adversity surrounding. Dealing with harsh areas of poverty and undrinkable water, Flint communities united and produced a weekend that resulted in much more than large donations, a successful youth camp, or a victorious all-star team—but a resilient city finding another way to stand together and make a lasting impression on Flint’s future—the youth.