Draft Family Makes Draft Day® a Success

April 25, 2009

Draft Family Makes Draft Day® a Success

No matter where he goes or what he does, there’s always one common theme in the message Rams linebacker Chris Draft spreads to the community: Family.

It’s in the title of his foundation, the Chris Draft Family Foundation and the foundation’s signature event, Draft Family Fitness Day, which took place at the Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club in St. Louis on Saturday, May 9.
Draft believes in family, and it’s obvious that he gained that ideal from his own. Draft’s family could be seen walking the halls of Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club during Draft Day®, carrying boxes, escorting some of the children at the fitness camp or doing anything that would ensure the event ran smoothly.

“It’s not just my family, but family members that believe in what we’re doing,” Draft said. “The day, Draft Family Fitness Day, is about bringing families together and knowing that with the right education and with the right support, it will allow our youth to find their dreams and really be able to accomplish them.”

The Draft family is a big part of the Chris Draft Family Foundation. Draft’s aunt, Pat Sims, serves as Executive Director of the Foundation, and his parents, Tony and Rose Draft, have been influential in every aspect of Draft’s life since he was a child.

Draft Family Fitness Day also focuses on health and fitness for the whole family, something Draft’s parents constantly preached to him since he was young. Tony and Rose Draft met at Kansas Wesleyan University while playing basketball and used to take their children to shoot hoops during the summer.

“If the parents are supportive of a healthy lifestyle, that’s going to help the youth be able to live that more,” Draft said. “We don’t want to just encourage the youth without encouraging the parents, because we know that the parents are the most important role models in the youth’s lives. It’s important that we acknowledge them and also send a message that says ‘never stop learning.’ Never stop educating yourself. To see their parents continue to learn will really inspire that youth to say ‘I have to do that too’ as they get older.”

While the camp is a fitness camp for the whole family, it doesn’t just focus on making sure youth as well as parents are eating healthy and staying physically active. The camp also focuses on mental fitness, including classes revolving around character building, goal setting and even financial stability.

“I was impressed with Chris when I first met him a few years ago,” said Charlotte Burnside, volunteer coordinator for Draft Family Fitness Day. “I had a chance to talk with him, and all he talked about was helping our St. Louis neighborhoods. Since I lived here all my life, I wanted to help him in any way that I could.”

During Draft Family Fitness Day, youth, that have been dubbed “Draft’s Picks” for displaying exemplary leadership skills, and their parents attend different educational sessions. Each session provides education on things these ambassadors and their parents can spread to the community, bringing families back into focus.

“(Chris) is such an inspiration to me and my organization because of the values and character he instills in not only himself but everyone around him,” said Julie Kruempel, Director of Marketing for Dance St. Louis and a volunteer for Draft Day®. “For us, he truly ‘gets’ the value of dance as an art form and as an option for physical activity and has gone the extra mile to find ways for us to collaborate on projects.  And for that, I am truly grateful for our partnership. “

Draft leaned on both family and friends to dispense advice to the groups. His father spoke in the Coaches and Parents Roundtable session, which focused on teaching parents how to balance their extra-curricular activities as well as academics, emphasizing the importance of both.

For the campers’ Goal Setting session, Draft turned to friend and former teammate Pellom McDaniels, now a professor of history at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. McDaniels and Draft played together with the Atlanta Falcons,

“Today, we were really working with the kids, helping them think about their short-term and long-term goals,” McDaniels said. “I tried to get them to understand perseverance. It’s one thing to set your goals, but it’s easy to give up when obstacles present themselves. In the end, it’s all about your success. How you handle adversity really shapes your character. What’s needed is a firm foundation, so that you can actually draw from that later in life.”

For the Just Us Guys session, which taught the male campers about the importance of character and being the best men they could be, Draft turned to another friend, Eliel Swinton, a teammate from the Stanford University  football team. Along with Just Us Guys was Girl Talk, which emphasized the same character traits to the women campers. This session was led by former Rams cheerleader Dana Jones,   along with the SLU Women’s Basketball Team. Several Rams Cheerleaders made a surprise visit to the class.

The seven students from Beaumont High School that attended Draft Day® had a lot of fun and can’t wait to participate in the camp next year,” said Lee Jackson of Beaumont High School and a Draft Day® volunteer. “They enjoyed participating in the different football drills, receiving positive input, encouragement, and the interaction with the Rams players. They realized that they have to work hard on the field, in practice, in the classroom, and in the weight room to help them achieve their life goals.”

To reinforce the message, all the campers had to do was look down. They were each given Character Team™ shirts with one of seven character traits emblazoned on the front; Compassion, Courage, Honest, Perseverance, Respect, Responsible and Self-Discipline.

Both the youth and parents attended financial classes at Draft Family Fitness Day. The youth attended Money Smart, led by Monica Campbell ,Angie Clark, and Tasha Pettis Bonds from National City Bank, while the parents attended Financial Literacy, led by Marvin Mitchell of Edward Jones and Sebrina Colvin of SLCC-Meramec.

“What I hoped to do was instill something in the parents that they could pass down to the kids,” Mitchell said. “We talked about college. We talked about the basics of investment. We talked about financial aid. We also talked about what to do with their 401k, what a Roth IRA is, just a lot of basics that a lot of people don’t know about. I think if the parents learn now, even if they don’t do it themselves, they have knowledge that we can instill in future generations.”

Draft Family Fitness Day brings families and the idea of family back to the forefront. For Chris Draft, the St.  Louis event was about family, friends and providing the groups in attendance with a little taste of what made him grow into the man he has become.

“If you look at one of the Character Team™ shirts Chris has here, I would say commitment is the one he should wear and be recognized for,” McDaniels said. “Being a former professional football player, there are so many ways that we’re being pulled constantly. To be committed to your community and this idea of community, it takes a lot of effort. It’s not just on your free days, not just on Tuesdays, it’s something you think about that’s ongoing. It’s working with the NFL, it’s working with local communities, it’s pulling people together, because you have an understanding of where it is you’re trying to go as a community.”