Military children sharpen athletic skills with help from NFL pro

Steve Smith, former National Football League all-pro wide receiver with the Baltimore Ravens and Carolina Panthers football teams, instructs a young receiver on running a correct pass route during the NFL Football ProCamp clinic at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base July 9. The clinic, sponsored by the Defense Commissary Agency, was a 2-day event open to boys and girls in grades 1-8, who are dependents of active-duty, retirees and Department of Defense civilian employees. (U.S. Air Force photo/Al Bright)
Caption
Steve Smith, former National Football League all-pro wide receiver with the Baltimore Ravens and Carolina Panthers football teams, instructs a young receiver on running a correct pass route during the NFL Football ProCamp clinic at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base July 9. The clinic, sponsored by the Defense Commissary Agency, was a 2-day event open to boys and girls in grades 1-8, who are dependents of active-duty, retirees and Department of Defense civilian employees. (U.S. Air Force photo/Al Bright)

On July 9-10 more than 150 military children, ages 6-14, participated in the Steve Smith Sr. football ProCamp at the Kittyhawk field at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

For six years in a row, Proctor and Gamble ran an annual contest with Department of Defense commissaries to best display and sell P&G products. The top 11 commissaries won a free ProCamp for the military families and their children at each base.

Wright-Pat was one of the winning bases.

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ProCamp is a two day youth football camp devoted to improving the athletic skills of children. The participants are all military kids up to the eighth grade, at any skill level, giving them the opportunity to learn from a professional National Football League player.

Adam Ross, CEO of ProCamp, explained why they are providing the camp for military members.

“We really appreciate what the military families do, and if we can come here and give them a great time with a top NFL professional we want to let them know that we appreciate the sacrifices they give,” said Ross.

ProCamp sectioned off the camp participants by age, giving each team a name and an experienced coach to run the activities for each day. Many of the children participating in the program expressed their excitement about being able to play and interact not only with each other but also Smith.

Smith is a former NFL wide receiver for the Baltimore Ravens. He earned multiple titles of achievement, including 2005 Comeback Player of the Year and most touchdowns achieved during one season with the Panthers.

“It’s a great event. I really enjoy doing it, and I enjoy going to the different bases. It’s a cool experience,” said Smith.

Smith spent two days with the children running drills and coaching them, but more importantly, he wanted the main focus to be on the kids having fun and enjoying the experience.

“For me it is a small token to say thank you. This is an opportunity to serve our men and women and their children,” said Smith.

The participants were all given complimentary T-shirts to be signed by Smith, as well as grand prizes for a top player per team elected by the teams coach to be awarded at the end of each training day. All of the participants also received the opportunity to talk to and take a picture with Smith in addition to being coached.

Victor Venegas was a part of the Wildcats, the youngest team on the field. Victor, age 6, expressed his favorite part was meeting Steve Smith and making new friends in the camp. He said he hopes that the ProCamp will happen again next year.

Master Sgt. Martin Venegas, Victor’s dad, stayed to watch his children participate in the camp.

“What was really cool was seeing them interact with kids that they normally don’t get to,” said Venegas.

Venegas encouraged parents to take the opportunity to participate in future programs.

“How much fun they had was what made me happy and just seeing them run around and be able to do this because I know how happy it makes them,” said Venegas.