Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 25, 1998

By Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / March 25, 1998

There has been a lot of negative publicity in the press about sports figures lately, from Latrell Sprewell to Andre Royal.

This past Saturday at East St. John High School, local fans got to seeanother side of sports that is often overlooked, those athletes that do give back to their communities.

The occasion was Lionel Washington’s Sixth Annual Football Camp.

Washington, a former Lutcher High School and Tulane University star, and over 20 of his football brethren gathered to try to make a difference in the lives of over 600 youngsters who attended the camp.

“Keeping Our Children’s Dream Alive” has been the theme of the camp and for one day at least, many of those youngsters saw their dreams come true.

Terrance Jones, another former Lutcher and Tulane star, has been involved with the camp since its inception. Jones said the camp is a good tool touse to reach the youth of today because athletics is something they can relate to.

“It is the quickest way to get their attention,” Jones said. “It issomething everybody young and old identifies with and we can use that to our advantage.”Jones said the camp was opportunity for the players to give something back.

“It is my way to give back to the community that supported me when I got out of high school,” Jones said.

The players, who included Randy Hillard of the Denver Broncos, Winnipeg’s Frank Rocca and Montreal’s Harold Nash, took the campers through a series of football drills. The youngsters learned how to run pass patterns, how todefend passes and how to block and tackle, all the while wide-eyed at the stars they watch weekly on television.

It wasn’t just the campers having fun, though. There was Rocca lifting upa youngster during a blocking drill. Nash taking another camper through adrill protecting the ball. And there was autographs after autographsthroughout the day.

But the camp was not just about football. It was also about making animpact on the youngsters that hopefully will make a difference in their lives. The guest speaker was Dwight Clay, an 11-year-old minister fromNew Orleans who spoke about the need for everybody to come together.

“Where there is no unity, there is no strength,” Clay said.

There were new features to the camp this year such as a karate exhibition and a book fair to teach the campers discipline and get them more involved in reading.

The camp concluded a weekend of activities that began when players from the camp played members of the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’sOffice in a game of basketball Thursday night in the East St. John gym. Theplayers were able to come away with a one-point victory after being tied at halftime.

Washington talked about what the camp meant and thanked the camp’s board and numerous volunteers for their help in making the camp a success.

Saturday was the first time in three years that the camp was held under sunny skies. But whether the weather has been rainy or sunny, it has notmade a difference because the campers always leave with a smile on their faces.

“The guys came out and have a good time,” Washington said of his fellow players. “We had about 600 kids this year. It was a great turnout. Westress some of the important things for the kids and hit all the bit points – education, staying away from drugs and staying in school. I think we didthat today.”

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