Patriots bring smiles to Newtown with Play 60 event
The Sandy Hook Elementary School is starting to smile again and this time, it was with the help of the New England Patriots. On Saturday afternoon, Robert Kraft and the New England Patriots football team took the field with more than 500 kids, many of whom were beaming with ear-to-ear smiles, at a very special Play 60 event.
The New England Patriots became the latest ambassadors from the New England sports world to hold an event in support of a community still reeling from the shooting that killed 20 first graders and six of their teachers/administrators, as Kraft and his team held a Football for You football and cheerleading clinic at Newtown High School’s Blue and Gold Stadium on Saturday.
Roughly 30 past and present Patriot coaches, players, and cheerleaders participated in the event, where children aged 6-14 had the chance to learn the fundamentals of football or practice a cheer routine with all of their professional heroes. From one end zone to the other, kids filled the stadium with laughter and showed that out of bad things, good things can happen.
“I hope they leave here with a good experience,” said Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo. “They’ve been through a lot these last couple months. It’s the rebuilding process. They’ll never be forgotten, but at the same time, these kids are very strong, their families are very strong, the parents out here in the stands are very strong. And hopefully we can come out here and provide a little temporary relief and some smiles.”
This trip to Newtown was not the first for Kraft. In 1999, Kraft’s family purchased the Rand-Whitney corrugated container company on Edmond Road in Newtown, just blocks away from the elementary school. After the tragedy at Sandy Hook last December, the grounds of the company were used as a meeting point after the shooting.
Newtown’s Youth Football and Cheerleading President, Sean Dunn, was one of the individuals smiling that spring afternoon. Dunn, who is a New York Jets fan, had nothing but kind words and support for his rival New England Patriots.
“This is beyond anything I could’ve imagined,” said Dunn. “What the Patriots have done is just fantastic.”
At the end of the clinic, Kraft thanked the entire crowd of families, friends and students who supported the event and presented Dunn with a customized “Newtown” No. 1 Patriots Jersey, signed by the entire Patriots team. The Patriots also extended a special invitation to two upcoming games this season against the New York Jets. Newtown’s football coach, Steve George, returned the favors and presented Kraft with his very own Newtown Nighthawks authentic jersey.
The clinic that the Patriots held Saturday is a semi-normal event, as every spring, the New England Patriots lead six youth football camps throughout the New England area. But this year, the team added this emotional stop to their schedule in order to support the Newtown community just as the Newtown community supports them all season long.
Story by Francesca Pelletier