Dawn Ridz believes that every kid, no matter what their situation is, should have a shot at achieving their dreams. A few years ago, Dawn witnessed kids being refused enjoyable activities because of their disabilities and decided she wanted to make a difference.
"They've been told their entire lives [that] because of their disability that they can't waterski or they can't play football or they can't play soccer," Ridz said.
Together, with former Redskins offensive lineman Tyler Polumbus, Ridz partnered with Dreams for Kids DC, a non-profit that provides activities that empower children with physical and developmental disabilities to unite with their peers and realize their potential, to host the first DFKDC Redskins Football Clinic in 2013.
Thanks to a partnership with the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation, youth athletes were invited to the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park on Friday, June 8, for the Dreams for Kids Football Combine where those in attendance rotated through six different activity stations guided by volunteers and the entire Redskins rookie class. The event was the last of the Charitable Foundation's 'Rookie Community Club' events, which provides the rookie class with different opportunities to give back during their first few weeks with the team.
The stations included obstacle courses that allowed kids to make diving catches; a game of sharks and minnows; agility drills and the opportunity to play catch with the rookies. While the event gave those running through the course a boost of energy, the Redskins' rookie players also had the chance to be supportive throughout the process, as they served as an inspiration to others.
"I think it's special for both the rookies and the kids, because how often do kids in general get to play with professional athletes?" Ridz said. "For the rookies, they have a different sense. They're just coming into the NFL, everything is new. But to be able to affect a child's life, to be able to create that smile, to give that high five, it's a special feeling all the way around."
Former Redskins defensive back and Dreams For Kids DC Athlete Ambassador Kyshoen Jarrett was also in attendance on Friday. For Jarrett, contributing to the Dreams for Kids Football Combine provided a special meaning, as his brother has grown up with cerebral palsy and is visually impaired, preventing him from participating in sports. Jarrett himself is still working back from nerve damage in his right arm, which has prevented him from playing football for more than two years.
As Jarrett walked around each activity and provided encouragement for every kid involved, his personal experience allowed him to grow his appreciation and be active at every football event that the non-profit organization holds.
"It's been absolutely awesome," Jarrett said. "Knowing what their mission is and what their basis is. Knowing that they help all ages of kids who have mental or physical disabilities...So that's what really drew me to this organization specifically. I come out specifically for all the football events and just provide some encouragement and help lift all the kids by seeing a former NFL player."
Seeing the smiles of the kids that idolize them made the appearance "worthwhile" for the rookies, as wide receiver Trey Quinn noted. He believes that events like this will help encourage his peers to pursue other opportunities that impact their community in a positive way.
"A lot of smiling faces out here," Quinn said. "It's a hot day but everybody is having fun. Any chance that we get to give back to the community, we're going to do it. It looks like we're making a big impact today with a lot of kids. We're having fun and enjoying doing it."