Next month the University of Hawaii football program will host a camp that's about far more than just X's and O's. Its aim is to help at-risk middle school boys in all walks of life.
It's called the Youth Impact Program and it was founded by three-time Super Bowl Champion and 2017 Polynesian Football Hall of Fame inductee Riki Ellison.
"When I came over here from New Zealand and I was exposed to the University of Southern California and given access, seeing my heroes changed my life forever at that critical age of 6th, 7th and 8th grade," Ellison said.
So he started the Youth Impact Program more than a decade ago to promote positive development in low-income, at-risk 10-14 year old boys through football. The program has been used at USC, Michigan, Northwestern and Stanford among others. Now for the first time it comes to Hawaii.
"Why am I not doing this here and giving back to my bloodline and my Polynesian heritage and to Hawaii," Ellison questioned as he was inducted at the Polynesian Cultural Center in January.
For two weeks in July, the program will provide kids with more than 60 hours of classroom time, 20 hours of football and fitness training and mentoring, field trips, transportation, clothing and two meals a deal all free of charge thanks to a group effort from UH, the US Army and Marines, Roy Yamaguchi and more than 20 restaurants, and many more.
"We've hit a bunch of corners of the community to make this thing happen," said UH head football coach Nick Rolovich. "So we know it's going to be great."
For current Rainbow Warriors players like Dru Brown and John Ursua, it wasn't so long ago that they were in middle school with role models of their own. Now they'll have a chance to impact kids in need.
"We're not really close to any NFL and NBA teams or anything like that, but we always fell back on the UH football team or basketball, whatever sport you may enjoy," said Ursua, a Hawaii island native. "It's just a great opportunity to do that."
"I think the platform that all of us players have been given is not just for no reason, it's to give back," said quarterback Dru Brown. "If we're not doing that it's almost a waste of time. We were blessed enough to have people to look up to. It's our job to be the role models this time around."
Registration is still open for the camp that runs July 3-14. To register, click here.
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