Led by Tanya Snyder, President Bruce Allen and several players, the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation hosted a Salute to Play 60 Military Challenge on Monday at Fort Belvoir, Va.
Based on the amount of diverse, sometimes rigorous drills and outdoor activities the nearly 400 children at Fort Belvoir, Va., participated in Monday afternoon, their task of repeating all that exercise, 60 minutes each day for a month, seemed more lofty than conquerable.
But this was the Salute to Play 60 Military Challenge kick-off, and the beginning of any test, especially involving kids, a football field and members of the Redskins, came with some necessary pageantry to promote the third annual event. After all, the message to those in attendance -- both the kids on the field and the parents watching -- was about staying healthy by doing the little things.
The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation, the Department of Defense, Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines joined forces to kick off the third annual Salute to Play 60 Military Challenge.
"When you're beyond today, make sure you keep it up to your favorite song, grab a friend, grab your mom and dad, do it on a daily basis, take your animal, walk with a group," Tanya Snyder, wife of Redskins owner Dan Snyder, said when addressing the group. "Whatever you do, have some fun every day for at least 60 minutes and you'll see a huge difference in your health and you'll be much happier in your life."
The kids in attendance all came from 11 military installations in the Washington, D.C., region and the initiative, part of the NFL's larger Play 60 program, aims to fight childhood obesity by encouraging activity, and in this case, logging it down to win Redskins-related prized as an incentive.
Along with Snyder, team President Bruce Allen helped fire up the crowd before the Redskins cheerleaders and several players – Alfred Morris, Darrel Young, Niles Paul, Silas Redd Jr., Shawn Lauvao, Kyshoen Jarrett and a surprise visit from Robert Griffin III – posed for photos, signed autographs and split up into groups to start the festivities.
Hosted by the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation, and partnering with Mid-Atlantic Dairy and USO Metro, the kick-off delivered a large dose running, jumping and dancing, a sampler of ideas, really, for the kids to try each day.
"I'm enjoying myself," Jarrett said. "I feel like a kid myself just being out here, just encouraging these guys to stay active and continue to work and stay healthy… I don't have a military background, but to be able to come and do this for the kids, it's great to see the smiles on their faces, see them enjoying themselves."
Rotating every 10 minutes to different stations, kids received instruction about eating healthy as they jumped rope, released excess energy in bouncy castles, calmed down with some yoga and then sped up again with some games of tag. Morris, even after a gameday, took the games seriously with a smile on his face
"I'm a little stiff right now. I started out at the hip-hop station. I don't think I did too good. I probably hop-hipped," Morris said. "Those kids did a great job. They got me out pretty fast. Maybe Sunday if they would have tried to do that it wouldn't be so easy."
Redskins running back Alfred Morris made a special visit to Laurel Elementary to reward their efforts for being a "Touchdown School" in the Fuel Up To Play 60 program.
Morris understands the importance of afternoons like this. His brothers and cousins are members of the military and his grandfather and aunt served before them. Opportunities to play around with kids impacted by their parents' professions are cherished.
"I know it can be hard for them going from base to base or city to city sometimes, and depending on where their parents have been stationed it can be very hard on them," Morris said. "So just to come out here and hang with some professional athletes means the world, to take their minds off what they're going through for just a split second."
For Paul and Redd, still in the early stages of their recovery from season-ending surgeries, attending events like Monday's give them a sense of normalcy – signing autographs and answering questions from big-eyed fans.
"It means everything to me, because especially this year being hurt, you come out here and these kids don't care who you are," Paul said. "They just know that you're a Redskin and they make you feel a part of the team. Being out here signing autographs, I feel good, like it's my normal routine."
And ideally, for the kids roaming from station to station, sweating and laughing and slurping down chocolate milk after a hard day of play will feel like normal routine, too.
That, according to Col. Michelle Mitchell, a Garrison Commander at Fort Belvoir, is what makes this enterprise rewarding, especially when she looks at all the kids enamored by the players around them, inspiring them to continue staying active.
"They know that an organization like the Redskins will care enough to come out and be interested in their health and futures," she said. "I think it's a big difference for the kids."