NFL player meets Gold Star families, helps kick off ProCamps season
Minnesota Vikings tight-end Kyle Rudolph stood quietly among a small circle of Gold Star families at Fort Lee, Virginia, and listened as many of them tearfully reflected on the lives of their cherished service members who died in combat or as a result of military service.
For Rudolph, meeting these families at the post’s Quartermaster Museum on Feb. 21 was a sober reminder of the ultimate sacrifices that military members and their families face every day.
“As a kid who is from a family that’s had both grandfathers serve, and cousins and uncles serve, I have a great appreciation for our military and for the men and women who serve our country,” Rudolph said. “To have the opportunity to come out to Fort Lee and spend time with the Gold Star families – just talk to them, hear their stories, hear about the fallen heroes in their family – it’s something I will never forget.”
Rudolph’s visit was twofold. In addition to meeting Gold Star families, he stopped by the Defense Commissary Agency headquarters to talk to soldiers and DeCA employees as part of the kickoff event for the sixth year of the Procter & Gamble-sponsored NFL ProCamps program for thousands of military children worldwide.
From March 19 to April 8, select commissaries will compete for a chance to be eligible to win one of the many NFL ProCamps for their installation courtesy of Procter & Gamble. Winning installations will host a free, two-day football camp for up to 150 children in first through eighth grade, both boys and girls, of active duty military, reservists, retirees and DOD civilian employees.
Campers will learn from and play with NFL players like Rudolph, Alejandro Villanueva (Pittsburgh Steelers), Andre Roberts (Atlanta Falcons), Jonathan Stewart (Carolina Panthers), Graham Gano (Carolina Panthers), LeGarrette Blount (Philadelphia Eagles) and Steve Smith Sr. (former Baltimore Raven) among many others.
ProCamps events are awarded based on an installation’s commissary sales of designated Procter & Gamble products like Tide, Charmin, Head & Shoulders, Crest and Pampers, and customer votes online and through mobile texting. Patrons will see mass displays in participating commissaries.
“Through this event, our patrons get quality products at significant savings, while their children learn football fundamentals from some dynamic pro players,” said Sallie Cauthers, DeCA marketing and mass media specialist. “This program helps promote living a healthy and active lifestyle which is important to all parties supporting this program.”
Through these camps, NFL football players teach military children the fundamentals of football, teamwork and how to make new friends, said Molly Fanning of ProCamps. “Over the past five years, we have executed more than 60 camps for thousands of military youth around the world, and we are excited to continue to support military youth and their families through this program.”
Rudolph will go to Germany, April 7-8, to help put on the ProCamps event for the Kaiserslautern military community. There will also be a ProCamp planned for a military installation in the Far East. LeGarrette Blount, who is off his second consecutive Super Bowl win, will be hosting a camp for 200 youth at the Naval Base Yokosuka, Japan, April 28-29.
Rudolph’s association with ProCamps is personal. The company is based in Cincinnati, his hometown, and both the co-founder and chairman, Gregg Darbyshire, and the vice president of operations, Sean Rowland, have known the Vikings player since he was a small child.
As someone who’s played football since he was 5 years old, Rudolph said he is happy to be part of a program that helps children improve their physical fitness.
“It’s extremely important for kids to be active, especially in this day and age, where kids get so caught up in video games and computers and staying inside,” he said. “You have to get out [of the house]. You have to play. Even if that’s just running around the neighborhood with some friends – it doesn’t necessarily have to be organized sports.”
The ProCamps program is another example of the ancillary benefits commissary patrons receive from the agency’s collaboration with its industry partners, who provide millions of dollars annually in giveaways and promotional events, said DeCA interim director and CEO retired Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi.
“We’re very proud to be affiliated with all that you’re doing with ProCamps,” he said to Rudolph while welcoming him to DeCA headquarters. “It’s a great program, and you’re serving as a great role model for these fans here. … Thanks for what you’re doing. Thanks for supporting our military because it means a lot to all of us here as we do our jobs every day.”
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