NFL YET Empowers Atlanta Youth

October 01, 2009

NFL YET Empowers Atlanta Youth

The youth of today is our future, but with increased violence and negativity spreading throughout economically distressed communities, the direction of their future lies within not just the hands of parents, schools, or even the judicial systems alone. It takes a community as a whole to care enough and become active in educating and assisting the youth in becoming positive adults in society.

Understanding this theory, the National Football League in 1993 sought ways to positively impact the nation's communities by using sports as a means to foster community development and, more importantly, the development of the youth, establishing the Youth Education Town or YET.  The NFL/YET initiative began after Los Angeles civil disturbances prior to Super Bowl XXVII and these "towns" are youth centers concentrated in Super Bowl cities to empower area youth, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances.  At that time, YET began in Los Angeles, but the NFL has since challenged each Super Bowl host city to create a center in underdeveloped communities that need support with their restoration initiatives. Today, there are eight NFL/YET Centers: Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, New Orleans, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa and Atlanta.

The NFL/YET Center located in Atlanta is primarily managed and governed by Boys & Girls Club of Metro Atlanta.  The Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta is a private, non-profit organization and has been in the forefront of youth development for more than 70 years.  It enriches the lives of girls and boys that other youth agencies fail to reach. They are dedicated to ensuring that youth have greater access to quality programs and services that provide promise, hope and opportunities to ensure that the youth become productive adults. 

"Although having only been director since February (2009), the vision of Boys & Girls Club remains the same, which is to service the youth of Atlanta to the best of our ability through Health and Fitness, Education, and Life Skills," said Executive Director of the NFL Yet Monica Trimble. "It is our ultimate goal to produce positive, productive citizens."

In order to effectively serve those who need them most, The Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta asks families to pay annual membership dues of only $35 per child, but no child is turned away due to inability to pay.  The organization relies upon private, corporate, individual, and United Way funding to fill the gap between membership dues and operational expenses.

One of the major investors in the funding of BGCMA is the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation.  Vice President, John Bare stated,

"We invest in non-profit organizations to ultimately improve fitness and child obesity, and the NFL/YET Center in Atlanta is just one organization that does an outstanding job in getting kids involved in some type of physical activity," said John Bare, Vice President of the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation. "Our current initiative, since 2005, is the Falcons Fitness Zone and YET brings in 200 kids or more during the school year; and even more than that during the summer months." 

The Falcons Fitness Zones helps kids become more physically active and make healthier eating choices.  The Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation has invested nearly $2 million a year to increase opportunities for kids living in neighborhoods designated as Falcons Fitness Zones.  Through these Zones, the Youth Foundation works with community partners, like BGCMA, to expand existing physical fitness programs for youth and to create new opportunities that move kids from sedentary to active.  Bare continued, “….the Fitness zones caters to all diverse situations, from school aged children to those 18 years of age.  Our goal is to teach the younger children the importance of nutrition, while also assists the older youth that are already involved in athletics."  Falcons’ players and cheerleaders make regular visits to the Fitness Zones, where they engage kids in physical activities and emphasize the benefits of exercise and proper diet. As role models for many of the children in the Zones, Falcons players and cheerleaders can have a strong influence in changing the behaviors that lead to childhood obesity.

Former Atlanta Falcon, Linebacker Chris Draft also realizes the impact professional athletes can have on youth, which is why he is an avid supporter of the Falcons Fitness Zone as well as the NFL YET initiative.  Chris and the Chris Draft Family Foundation, which is based in Atlanta, plays an active role in both organizations. As a member of the executive board for YET, he and the foundation work to continually improve the facility and support the programming the Center offers.
“Everything that Chris and the Draft Family Foundation stand for is exactly what YET stands for," Trimble said. "Chris is a wonderful supporter and I am very grateful to him for being such an inspiration to boys and girls town.”

As a strategic initiative of the Chris Draft Family Foundation, the Foundation seeks to work with all of the NFL YET Centers across the United States.  A key piece of the Foundation’s outreach is the sponsoring of the Foundation’s signature Get Checked and Get Fit™ Draft Day® fitness camp for the whole family at NFL YET Centers.  As part of a yearly tour during the NFL Super Bowl, the Foundation sponsors a camp for the local NFL YET Center that involves both their members and parents.  With support from the local NFL YET Center staff, the Foundation is able to engage both the neighboring community and schools to help the local NFL YET Center further their reach into the surrounding neighborhood.  

"If the youth, or even the parents, in our communities have no one talking to or educating them on the importance of various things like education, healthy lifestyles, character development, personal responsibility, self-discipline and physical fitness, it can all happen at area foundations," Draft said.

The NFL Yet and Boys & Girls Club of Metro Atlanta, the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, and the Chris Draft Family Foundation are three local foundations in Atlanta who have all joined together for one specific goal; and that's what ultimately makes a community more positive and whole, is uniting together as one mind, for one purpose, and one goal.