By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com

Yet another consequence of the COVID 19 pandemic was the opportunity for local children across the country to participate in community events that professional sports teams typically host in the communities. Within the past couple of weeks, the Los Angeles Chargers have partnered with a couple of Southern California organizations to unite children and athletes. In each situation, the Chargers have arranged an opportunity for the local youth in Los Angeles to interact with their players and see them in an off-the-field setting.

Over 200 students from Bethune Middle School attended a pep rally hosted by Sleep Number and GENYOUth. Not only would each of these students receive a flag football kit with pillows from Sleep Number. Los Angeles Chargers 5th year running back and Western State Colorado graduate Austin Ekeler spoke to these children about the importance of proper sleep, being healthy, and remaining active, and how this impacts their overall health.  

This would not be the first, or only, time Ekeler has chosen to interact with children and fans. Before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, he frequently hosted videos and at-home workouts on Twitch to engage with fans, helping them stay committed to physical fitness. He continues to post workouts to his social media accounts to motivate others to make physical activity a priority in their lives. 

“Part of my NFL career and progression, I’ve understood what football means to the community and what we mean to the community. The most important thing is when it comes to the youth is making sure you’re active. Make sure you’re doing things. You won’t always understand what you’re learning from the things that you’re doing, but when you’re doing things, you are learning social skills, you’re learning out to work as a team. For all the youth out there, I would say go do things. Get involved with your friends, clubs, music, whether it’s hanging out in the park, playing basketball; just go out and do things.” This was Ekeler’s message to those kids present and those who were not present about being active.

Ekeler added, when talking about his upbringing growing up on a farm, “it was a lot of work, but it was a lot of sports as well. Learning how to work hard when came to building a fence. Then learning how to work as a team when it came to athletics and working with different types of people. It wasn’t always fun when I think about it, but it was the skills I was learning, and the experiences I was going through that helped to shape who I was things.” This was Ekeler’s message to those kids present and those who were not present about being active.

“It takes people to help take care of people!” This was the most profound statement from Austin when talking about his personal growth and desire to help others! When explaining his new purpose he explained, “People are interested in people who have come a long way and had a long journey, I feel like I’ve done that in a really short period, and people are intrigued. So, I have a specific opportunity to show people how I’ve done it, what works for me, and this what’s it been.” 

Chris Rumph II runs down to cover a Cleveland Browns kickoff at SoFi. (Photo Credit Chargers Pillaofff)

Later that same day, the Los Angeles Chargers in partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Los Angeles and Pet Space, hosted First Down for First Books. At this event, 40 students from a local Boys and Girls Club attended the Annenberg Pet Space in Playa Vista. They were all provided an opportunity to meet Charger’s rookie Edge Rusher Chris Rumph II and engage with dog trainers and the pets available for adoption. After meeting Rump, the students from the Boys and Girls Club were able to rotate between multiple stations, where they would practice their reading skills and work with animals at Pet Space to help them practice their social skills. 

“I give back! God has blessed me with this opportunity and the only thing I can do in this position is share my joy and happiness. I’m out here with kids; I am a professional football player, but at the end of the day, I’m a human being just like them, and hopefully, I’ll be a role model for them to follow in my footsteps.” Chris Rumph II said in regards to sharing his time with the kids from the local boys and girls club. He later added, “Me taking an hour, or two hours, out of my day to make their day, for weeks or months is something they will remember for a lifetime. That’s a gift for me! So, I’m just blessed with opportunity.”

“Part of the special platform in the NFL is for these players to express themselves and what’s important to them. These guys have certain mission statements that they’re a part of that are important to them. They have the platform to help those initiatives in a big way. The communities they come from, their families, I think it’s important for these players that they’re able to do that. You have such a small window of time as a player, but you can take advantage of it in a big way that can set you up for the rest of your life.” This is how Chargers’ head coach Brandon Staley responded when asked if he encouraged players to participate in community events. He also added, “That’s one of the special things about the NFL.”

Anatole France famously noted, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” I have found this to be true and often time where we think we’re bringing them joy; yet they are bringing us the same amount of joy. These events were similar yet different signs of the Chargers reaching out to their community and creating future fans. I think their involvement in the community is certainly a good thing and their presence can be felt in many ways. Kindly share your thoughts on the Chargers community initiatives and the impact they can have by reaching out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or shoot me an email at info@whatsgoodinsports.com. I encourage you to forward any suggestions on what topics, angles, or players on this Los Angeles Chargers team you would like to read about this season.

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