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Faces of Success:  NFL/United Way Hometown Huddle 2015

Dozens of screaming kids running all over the place on a Tuesday night at Saint Thomas Sports Park. The word “chaos” comes to mind; NFL/United Way Hometown Huddle 2015 was more like “organized chaos.” This year’s event provided United Way of Metropolitan Nashville and the Tennessee Titans with the opportunity to partner together to create lasting memories and promote awareness of youth health and physical fitness for 71 kids.

“The partnership between the Titans and United Way gives these kids the opportunity to be exposed to public figures and keeps them focused on reaching their program goals,” says Carlos Lowe, youth program director at the Salvation Army United Way Family Resource Center.

Hometown Huddle was started in 1999 by the NFL and United Way and continues to focus on bringing awareness to the issue of youth health and fitness. The league-wide day of service allows players, coaches, cheerleaders and leadership to participate in a variety of youth fitness projects in different NFL cities across the country on the same day.                                

United Way SPARK™ after-school program participants from the Salvation Army United Way Family Resource Center and the Bethlehem United Way Family Resource Center came to the Titans practice facility to share in the feverish excitement of the evening.      

“It was to the point where their behavior was uncontrollable because they were on the same field as the Titans. It’s a dream come true for them,” says Lowe.

Hometown Huddle gave kids the opportunity to team up with Titans players like tight end Delanie Walker and linebacker Brian Orakpo. They competed in flag football games and also ran through a series of activity stations that complement the NFL’s Play 60 campaign, reinforcing the importance of daily physical activity. The highlight of the night was an appearance by Titans rookie quarterback and guest coach Marcus Mariota.

“This is an awesome opportunity for us to interact with youth in our community. We’ve had a lot of fun running around and enjoying their company,” says Mariota.

When they weren’t running all over the place, the kids were learning lessons about life in the NFL from the guys with all of the experience.

“Some of them asked the players what they have to do to stay positive during games and also be successful off the field,” says Lowe. “A couple of the guys shared their experiences and I know that will go a long way with these kids.”

Their attitudes toward health have come a long way, thanks in part to United Way’s SPARK after-school program, funded by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation. The program aims to improve health through physical activity and nutrition and is another example of United Way’s focus on changing the health outcomes of Nashville’s at-risk students. 

“United Way is an incredible foundation,” says Mariota. “It’s awesome to see them get involved with underprivileged youth and that makes us excited to be a part of events like this.”

The bright futures of those screaming kids are possible, thanks to Hometown Huddle, the power of partnership between United Way and the Tennessee Titans, as well as the SPARK after-school program.

On second thought, Tuesday night seemed like the perfect amount of chaos.