The Eastern Michigan University football team put the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl celebration on the back burner today, Dec. 21, as the student-athletes and staff went out around the local community to interact to with children. The teams split up into three groups to give their time at two hostels, as well as at a youth football clinic.
The EMU players interacted with the kids at the hostels, engaging in activities and getting to know the youths. The children at the local establishments came from troubled backgrounds, as the hostel served as a safe space where they can learn and grow in a protected environment. With the EMU players there, the kids instantly lit up as the opportunity to play games with the football players made their afternoons
“For us to be here and help these kids out, it’s a blessing,” redshirt junior Brandon Bossard (Eagleville, Pa.-Methacton) explained. “You feel grateful when you come here and you see how fortunate you are. To put a smile on these kids faces, it really makes a difference.”
Ranfurly Homes for Children is an institution that works to ensure displaced children feel safe, comfortable and develop a sense of self-worth. The Popeyes Bahamas Bowl has worked closely with the organization since the bowl’s inception in 2014, and the visit has become a staple of the week.
“The kids look forward not only to going to the bowl game, but getting an opportunity to interact with these talented athletes,” Ranfurly Homes for Children administrator Alex Roberts said. “Just the opportunity to meet young people who are successful and on their way, it’s a marvelous opportunity.”
While on site, the teams took to the basketball court where they challenged the kids to a game of basketball.There was also soccer, swings, and other fun activities throughout the day.
“The great thing about sports is that none of these guys know each other, but you get a ball out there and immediately you can start being comfortable and interacting,” EMU Head Coach Chris Creighton said. “That’s the power of sport.”
Elsewhere, the rest of the team went back to the practice facility to engage in a youth clinic with other local Bahamas children. Along with the coaches, the players put the kids through various drills and football activities to teach the kids some more about the sport we know well in America, but the kids might not know as well in the Caribbean.
The children at the clinic participated in several drills that were overseen by the players, but the highlight of the day always comes at the end when each child has the chance to score a touchdown and show off his/her unique celebratory dance. It was one final moment for the kids and the players, two groups who didn’t know much about each other prior to Wednesday, to let loose together.
The Green and White will square off with Old Dominion University Friday, Dec. 23, at 1 p.m. in Nassau, Bahamas for the 2016 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl. The Eagles’ second-ever NCAA Division I bowl game will air live on ESPN and will also be available on 89.1 FM WEMU. For more information regarding the bowl game go to EMUEagles.com/BowlBound.