Football, faith at Freedom Life

Jul. 19, 2014 @ 04:33 PM

His allegiance lies with the New England Patriots, but Jordan Richards seemed more than happy to set his NFL preference aside.

Each participant was on the same team Friday as Freedom Life Church hosted a free Carolina Panthers Play 60 youth football clinic with an estimated 200 campers between the ages of 6 and 12. A minimum of 75 needed to be registered in order for the camp to be a go.

“It made us active and everybody just bonded and had a good time,” said Richards, an 11-year-old Henderson Collegiate student.

Activity is the clinic’s focus, more so than technical skill or Xs and Os.

The Play 60 initiative encourages children to get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

Two Panthers representatives attended the event in a team-colored Play 60-themed van, helping run the clinic along with about 60 area volunteers.

Campers went through a variety of football drills in 10 stations as cones, ladders and blue Play 60 tackling dummies adorned the Freedom Life grounds.

The instructors’ Panthers blue polo shirts didn’t bother camper Maegan Faulkner, a “big” fan of the Charlotte team. 

“It was very exciting,” said Faulkner, who learned about healthy eating and sleeping habits. “It was a lot of movement and you were very active during the entire thing. It was really fun.”

Jason Brown is accustomed to participating in and leading high-intensity camps. The seven-year NFL veteran was chomping at the bit on Friday to have the campers he oversaw drop down and give him 20 pushups.

“I didn’t do that today,” Brown said with a smile. “Mainly making sure the kids are health conscience, they’re staying active.”

Brown played football for Northern Vance and UNC before being drafted by the Ravens in 2005.

A Louisburg resident, Brown and his family joined Freedom Life earlier this year.

“When we said NFL Play 60 was coming to Henderson, some people were like, ‘Oh yeah, Carolina Panthers, Play 60, they’re not coming to Henderson,’” said Brown. “They came to Henderson. This is a tremendous blessing for all the youth in our community.”

The festivities weren’t just about football.

When the Play 60 regimen wrapped up, campers came indoors for a different message.

“We decided as a church if we get kids here, we need to tell them about Jesus,” said Dwight Pendergrass, the Freedom Life children’s pastor. “We’re trying to do everything we can to reach out to the kids and get kids interested in going to church and show them through our activities that church can be fun.”

It’s fun for James Alexander, a rising Northern Vance junior who is active in Freedom Life’s children and teenager ministries and also volunteered on Friday.

“Kids that don’t know each other became friends,” said Alexander. “It just brings everybody together.”

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.