Photo courtesy Katherine Fukuda/The Salvation Army
Near the corner of Spring Street and Long Beach Boulevard sits a brand new turf field, adorning the Salvation Army’s Donald & Priscilla Hunt Red Shield Community Center. On Tuesday night, the sparkling new facility welcomed representatives from the defending Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams, who were there hosting a youth football camp for between 75-100 kids.
“The greatest thing about today is not just to be able to use the field, but use the field for its purpose, right back to the community,” said Captain Jared Arnold, corps officer at the Long Beach Red Shield location. “All of this today is just to give kids an opportunity to have fun in a safe environment, and enjoy the summer.”
Tuesday’s camp is one of several stops for the Rams all throughout the LA area. With so much ground to cover in LA County and beyond, the organization is hosting more than 30 camps with upcoming stops in Ontario, Irvine, Inglewood, and more. All attendees at the Long Beach camp received a Rams Camp t-shirt, some snacks, as well as a one-year membership to the new Red Shield location.
Johnathan Franklin is the Director of Social Justice and Football Development with the Rams, and was overseeing the Long Beach camp. In his day, Franklin was an All-American running back at UCLA and was drafted by the Green Bay Packers. He’s seen the influence football can have on kids, and is hoping these camps can teach lessons that transcend the sport.
“With this partnership with the Salvation Army, we really want to collaborate and use the power of football,” Franklin said. “Not just to create access to the game, but to teach those transferable life skills that you can gain through being here–the unity it provides, perseverance of learning to get through a drill, achieving a goal. So we believe in what this can create, and how it can empower the youth as well.”
One of the campers was 12-year-old Omari St. Louis, who is about to start seventh grade. This was his first exposure to organized football, but he said it’s his favorite sport to watch. Omari said he enjoys the activities offered at the Red Shield facility, especially gym and dodgeball. It’s no surprise that his favorite drill was focused on elusiveness.
“I like getting people’s flags,” said Omari, who plans to continue playing flag football and wants to be a wide receiver.
As it turns out, the Salvation Army will be launching a flag football league at the Long Beach Red Shield location, modeled after the Los Angeles Red Shield’s current league. The Rams are assisting with uniforms and equipment for the program, which is scheduled to start this fall.
“This was a perfect meld,” said Arnold of the partnership with the Rams. “It's us trying to make sure that kids have a safe environment. To make sure that there's mentorship and education and growth in athletics, and that just aligned perfectly with what the Rams are doing.”
For more information, visit the Long Beach Salvation Army website