By Nyesha Stone
As the clock struck 9 a.m. and the sun shone down on the football field, young children, mainly boys, were visible on North Division High School’s field training and practicing at Gilbert Brown’s 13th All-Pro Football Camp.
The Gilbert Brown Foundation and AT&T Wisconsin Pioneers teamed up to hold the free camp that’s been training children on the art of football since 2005.
“Some people think because it’s free it’s not good but it is,” said Brown.
According to Brown, he started the camp because when children have nothing to do they tend to find themselves in trouble. Many of the children in the camp need guidance and through Brown, the other coaches, mentors, volunteers and really anyone that’s involved, these young children receive more than just learning how to throw a football.
Board member of the Gilbert Foundation Sharon Mays-Ferguson has been volunteering with the camp since day one. Gilbert Foundation has partnered with community organizations and non-profits to provide free lunches and snacks for the children, and Mays-Ferguson is in charge of finding those partnerships. And, setting up where the lunches go during the camp, plus whatever else is needed.
But, she said it’s a team effort making sure each and every child gets the help and resources they need.
“I love the kids,” said Mays-Ferguson, “[and,] I get to see them grow up.”
This year’s football camp was from July 10-12, with two sessions each day. The morning session ran from 8 a.m. until noon for young children aged 8 to 12, and the evening session ran from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. for older kids aged 13 to 17.
Throughout the years, the Milwaukee Fire Department has volunteered their time to help coach and provide first aid to injured players.
Brown made sure his camp was free because, although football camps are offered, most parents in the inner city can’t afford the fees. And, having it held at North Division where according to Brown, “the heart of the city is,” makes it easier to access. Children can take the city bus to the camp if needed since other transportation isn’t always available.
As the children ran around the field callings plays, yelling at one another for stepping out of bounds, and overall having a great time, parents and siblings watched from the sides on the bleachers.
“It’s life skill lessons being taught on the football field,” said Mays-Ferguson.