Many talented athletes have taken snaps, made catches, and tackled opponents on the field at Blue & Gold Stadium at Newtown High School. Now, members of the New England Patriots top that list.
Current and past players from the Patriots’ organization were introduced over the public address system on May 18. They then lined up to high-five youth football athletes from town as they marched onto the field in preparation of various drills run by the Patriots in the Football for YOU free clinic, held as part of the NFL’s Play 60 initiative, which promotes healthy living among young fans.
The event was put on by the Patriots, along with officials from the Newtown Youth Football and Cheer, and Newtown High School’s football program.
Okay, so these football stars weren’t hitting players. But they certainly were a big hit.
“It’s a lot of fun — nice of the Patriots to come out and support us,” said Newtown football and lacrosse player Jack Kearney, on hand as volunteer to help run skill stations for the teenage and preteen attendees.
The aftereffects of 12/14 continue to include a strong outpouring of support from high-profile athletes and that was the driving force behind the Pats coming to Newtown. The organization also has a tie to town through the family of Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. For nearly 20 years, the Kraft family has owned and operated Rand-Whitney Newtown, a manufacturer of corrugated boxes, which has several longstanding employees who are Newtown residents.
“I’m glad to be here. After everything that’s happened here the least we could do is come out and have some fun with the kids,” Pats linebacker Dont’a Hightower said. “A couple of years ago, I was in the same spot as them, going to camps.”
About 700 children practiced warm-up drills, then focused on footwork, high-stepping, tackling, and a variety of other skills. Some of the Patriot cheerleaders also gave pointers to up and coming cheerleaders.
“Everyone’s got a smile on their face. It’s great,” said Steve George, coach of the Newtown High team. “The organizations that seem to win are the one ones that are involved in the community.”
“Unbelievable. This organization is a class act,” said Sean Dunn, president of Newtown Youth Football and Cheer. “Anytime kids can meet professional athletes it’s just a win-win. It makes their day.”
Dunn noted that the Youth Football and Cheer board of directors, including Jim Luzietti, Tom Pellicone, Mike Connors, Julie Lubie, George, Ted Hannon, and Christine Calabrese, helped make the event possible. He also thanked Coach Sue Bridges and her Newtown High cheerleaders for helping out.
The Patriots, back in December, honored Newtown first responders on the field during a special ceremony prior to a playoff game. The Kraft family donated $25,000 to help those affected by the tragedy and privately spread some holiday cheer to a few Newtown families in need.