The New Orleans Saints recognized the United Way in its charity spotlight as the team faced the Tennessee Titans in the preseason home opener on Friday, Aug. 15.
The National Football League has teamed up with the United Way for more than 40 years to teach youth the importance of health and fitness and promote healthier lifestyles. The NFL-United Way partnership connects NFL PLAY 60 with the United Way's goal to get 1.9 million more young people healthy by 2018.
The mission of NFL PLAY 60 is to tackle childhood obesity and make the next generation of youth the most active and healthy, which demonstrates the NFL's long-standing commitment to health and wellness with the United Way. Each year, the New Orleans Saints host PLAY 60 events across the Greater New Orleans area as part of the NFL's school and team-based programs. The NFL has committed more that $250 million to youth health and fitness initiatives and has built more than 125 Youth Fitness Zones, organized more than 1,500 PLAY 60 youth events and integrated programs into more than 77,000 schools nationwide.
"We're super excited that the Saints are featuring us as their charity spotlight for this game," said Chief Executive Officer of United Way Michael Williamson. "It means a lot that they put United Wayout there in front of the whole Saints fanbase. It means a lot. The fans of the Saints are the supporters of United Way, so we have a lot in common."
The New Orleans Saints partner with United Way for two community events each year, Hometown Huddle and through Community Patrol Camps.
In the months of June and July, the Saints hosted the 11th Annual Community Patrol Summer Camps at the Saints Training Facility on Airline Drive. Six free one-day camps were held over the course of two weeks where more than 600 local children between the ages of 9 and 13 participated.
Each participant learned various football skills, taught by a local coaching staff. New to this year's camp, the coaches added an element on instructing children how to properly tackle to prevent concussions and injuries. Representatives for the Children's Bureau also taught the participants various life skills focusing on conflict resolution, adaptation and coping skills and crisis management.
Through the NFL-United Way collaboration, the Saints take part in an annual league-wide day of service, the Hometown Huddle. Last year the Saints celebrated the 15th Annual Hometown Huddle by transforming two rooms at the Belle Chasse YMCA, one into a youth fitness zone and the other into a fitness-inspired video game and creative arts room. Both rooms were revitalized with Saints furniture and décor. More than 150 children spent the afternoon learning how to use the Saints-branded fitness equipment and learning the fundamentals of the game from Saints players.
Several players, including Jahri Evans, Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas, have contributed each year to the annual Hope for the Holidays Gala with the United Way to raise money and rebuild homes in New Orleans damaged by hurricanes Katrina and Isaac.