Ten-year-old Mikaela had her week made on Tuesday when she found out that she would be attending Kids Day at her favorite team's training camp.
"Yesterday my uncle Alex told me we were coming. I was so hyped," the soon-to-be fifth grader said. "It's really crazy to see the players in person, because they are so tall."
The size of real-life professional football players was one of many thrills the hundreds of youngsters felt on the day. Kids Day at Commanders Park also featured a balloon artist, a visit from Major Tuddy, a face painting station and plenty of games. The lively training camp practice set out to provide kids from a range of backgrounds with an exciting summer day full of memory-making moments.
Among the special guests on Wednesday in Ashburn were 10 families from Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic. The opportunity to get the VIP training camp treatment offered these attendees a cherished chance to get their minds off their own everyday grind.
"To be able to come out here and have this experience, it takes [these families] out of what they're going through for the day,"said Raylene Grant, Direct of Giving and Engagement for Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic. "It lets them experience joy and hope of what their life could be…and it helps them feel better. It was all about the kids today. It was truly spectacular."
Joining Make-A-Wish in the open-air suites new to training camp this year was a football-loving group from Special Olympics Area 26. The Avengers 26 Area Flag Football team loved taking notes on the Commanders' practice drills and getting involved in all the Kids Day festivities.
"These kids are not a lot of times given the engagement that folks in general sports are," said Area 26 football coordinator Barry Tilton. "So, when they get a chance to participate and be involved in something that's larger than themselves, it gives them that sense of value, which is a wonderful thing, and we're happy that the Commanders are involved in that."
A couple hours of running around in the sun did not exhaust many of the Kids Day attendees come practice's end. Once the final period ended, hundreds flocked to the perimeters of the camp site, staying loud and bringing next-level energy, in the hunt to get autographs from their favorite players.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the practice fields, several kids could be seen excitedly colliding with their Commanders dad coaches and players.
"This is definitely re-charging to be able to see them even for a short time in the middle of the day. It gives you a boost," said quarterbacks coach Tavita Pritchard amid being piled on by his three kids.
During a uniquely intense period of the season, these small (pun intended) reminders of what is most important in life can be particularly motivational and medicinal.
"They always kind of bring you back down to earth, whether you have a good day or a bad day at practice, it doesn't really matter to them, I'm just dad," said father-of-three Marcus Kemp.