Off the field, the Sulphur Springs native, Damione Lewis, is anything but mean, contrary to his stocky build and NFL persona, and he's proving it again this weekend, returning to his hometown for the second straight year to help youngsters in his hometown become better athletes - and better people.
On April 25, Lewis will bring more than just some of his fellow professional football players, 15-20, to town for the second Damione Lewis Football Camp, offered free to all boys 6 to 14 years old in Hopkins County.
The deadline for camp sign-up has been extended. "We have ordered 400 T-shirts, and Damione purchased Nike bags to give to the boys in attendance that register in advance for the camp, but no boy that wants to attend will be turned away," said Ayanna Pryor, Boys and Girls Club executive director, on Tuesday. "We are also making the 'Friday Night Lights kickoff dinner' free to the public, thanks to the generosity of donors to the Boys and Girls Club contributors. It is just a small token to show our appreciation to the community and especially Damione."
The camp offers basic instruction on the fundamentals of the game of football, as well as proper nutrition and weight training. But campers also learn about leadership, character, and how to be true student-athletes on and off the field.
"We're going to teach the fundamentals of the game," Lewis said in his eighth season in the NFL. "But the biggest thing is to sit back at the end and try to talk to them and try to reach them. Playing a sport is a blessing in itself, but you realize that's not the most important thing in life. It's more important to grow from a kid to a man or a kid to a woman than it is to hang your hat on playing a professional sport. You have to be able to make a living for yourself if you don't make it," Lewis recalled in a previous interview.
Lewis was a blue chip prospect when he graduated from SSHS in 1996 and was the 12th overall pick in the NFL draft after a four-year career at The University of Miami.
Eight professional football players joined Lewis at the 2008 camp, offering one-on-one lessons on both the game and the game of life to over 250 youngsters. This year he is fitting the bill for the hotel rooms and airfare for 20 NFL players.
On Friday night, Lewis will be available for autographs as well as a live auction with items donated specifically by Lewis at the Boys & Girls Club, located at the old Houston Elementary School campus on College Street. The hot ticket live auction item will be four tickets to the Cowboys versus Carolina Panthers football game at the new stadium in Arlington that will include VIP passes scheduled on Monday, Sept. 28.
Another change this year is a “Friday Night Lights Kickoff Dinner” that will be held at the Boys and Girls Club beginning at 7 p.m. Friday, April 24.
Friday's dinner will be "down home" bar-b-que served fresh and hot on site by Bryan Kelly along with the assistance of the entire Boys and Girls Club board.
Those in attendance, not only get a dinner, but also a show. Entertaining crowds will be the Dixie Darlings dancing to a tune that suits the theme-Hank Williams, Jr.'s "Are you ready for some football".
On Saturday there will be a silent auction with a mixture of NFL memorabilia and other items.
The camp will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the James Cameron Memorial Practice Fields at the Sulphur Springs High School. Like the first camp, each boy who attends (that is registered) will receive a free T-shirt, but this year, they'll also take home a $30 Nike bag filled with all manner of goodies. (Nike sold the bags to Lewis, who is footing the bill for the freebies, for $10.) Charles Dawson, Investment Broker for the Berthel Fisher & Company and Boys and Girls Club board president, is donating the funds for all of the T-shirts. "These shirts are awesome," regarded Pryor.
Local banks are donating hot dogs for the youngsters, other local businesses are donating drinks, and the Dairy Museum is donating ice cream sandwiches.
"This is solely Damione's event, and we are so appreciative that he has donated it to us. He wants for kids to be able to receive the full opportunity for a great experience," said Pryor.
The camp is held in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club, where it's not uncommon for 60 percent of the children who take part in club programs from single-parent homes.
“It's kind of sad that the norm for kids is not to grow up with both parents in the home.” Lewis said last year prior to the inaugural camp. “My dad worked long hours, and worked out of town. Now that I'm older, I understand and appreciate the sacrifice he made for his family. I think the Boys and Girls Club will be a great focal point in bringing those values and morals to young kids' lives.”
Since its reopening in 2003, the Boys and Girls Club in Sulphur Springs has increased it numbers to 150 for grades kindergarten through third and as many as 200 with teens according to Pryor, to whom worked her way from lunch relief to excutive director. "We are helping kids get more civically involved," Pryor said enthusiastically. "We differ from some daycares in that we provide national programs and social centers. It is a small difference that culminates into a big difference."
For more information, call the Boys and Girls Club at 903-438-8404. Local business owners and others interested in donating items for the camp can call the same number for additional information.
Pryor finished, "Damione's camp will be a lot of fun. It is a great thing."
|< Prev||Next >|