Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Brad Smith joined with local teens and parents to host his seventh annual True Foundation Football Camp and Girls Chalk Talk Saturday at Youngstown State University.
The program, which offers kids and teens aged 8-16 the opportunity to run drills and plays with an NFL star, as well as meet professionals from a variety of fields and receive life guidance, drew over 300 young people to YSU.
A graduate of Chaney High School, Brad Smith hosts the annual event to help teens build their confidence, work on their football skills and talk through ways to deal with and succeed when presented with life’s challenges. Smith’s True Foundation also invites professionals from a variety of fields to talk to and encourage the assembled teens.
“We want to give kids hope,” Smith said, when talking about his organization.
The event began with a football clinic and was followed by the Girl’s Chalk Talk, which gives teen girls the opportunity to discuss more gender-oriented issues with Smith’s wife, Rosalynn.
During the clinic, participants ran drills and plays with and against Smith, while an emphasis on challenging one’s self and following instructions in an organized way were taught between events.
In a departure from previous years, the True Foundation partnered with the Back At One youth conference and block party, another annual event hosted by Smith’s church Mount Calvary Pentecostal on Oak Avenue. During the party, Smith mingled in the crowds, visiting with local kids and participating in activities.
“Brad Smith is certainly a role model, and for our kids in Youngstown, that is invaluable,” Ruthie King, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Youngstown said.
Smith takes his job as a role model seriously, believing it is the role of all adults, not just parents, to inspire children to build positive attributes and seek out worthwhile goals.
“He’s someone who has made it from Youngstown. He’s successful; he’s famous, and he’s coming home to help the people where he grew up. That’s the kind of role model our kids need, and Mr. Smith’s recognizability and popularity makes him the kind of role model our kids look to,” King said.
While many sports celebrities host camps and make appearances at organizations, the True Foundation’s camp is only partially paid for by the NFL Player’s Association. Smith pays for the remainder out of pocket or through outside fundraising and doesn’t let the experience of his camp end when the participants return home. He continues his outreach even across social media, promoting events and causes he believes in, and even retweeting local fans and participants, like Boardman High School varsity quarterback Sean Birchfield, who commented on the fun he had at the event.
“It’s about the smiles when they [the participants] leave, and the goals they aspire to,” Smith said, before turning back to a throng of waiting teens.