More than 300 kids get instruction on life and football
By Greg Gulas
Brad Smith and his wife, Dr. Rosalynn Smith, are pleased and excited with how their True Foundation football camp has grown over the past seven years.
They drew slightly more than 100 campers during their initial 2008 session while more than 300 boys and girls took part Saturday at their seventh event, which was held at YSU’s Stambaugh Stadium.
In addition to football instruction, their life skills presentation has also been well-received.
“I really didn’t know what to expect that first year and told my former coach and camp director, Ron Berdis, whatever happens, happens and let’s just see how everything unfolds,” said Smith, a Chaney High graduate. “My wife added her life skills session four years ago and that too, has taken off. With over 300 pre-registered today, it sure is great to see the interest. When I see kids come in and the excitement on their faces, the time, planning and effort is really worth it. To look at the smiles on their faces when they leave is priceless.”
It has become a ritual for Smith and his wife to earmark the third Saturday in June for their camp as he just completed his third preseason teaching camp with the Philadelphia Eagles, arrived in town on Thursday and then put Saturday aside for his camp.
He’ll use the next several weeks to unwind before reporting to the Eagles’ preseason camp on July 25.
Berdis, who has been camp director since its inception, said the camp is no longer a secret.
“From our very first year, I just felt as if it would grow and only get better. This is a no-brainer in that you have an NFL player as your instructor, some of the area’s very best high school coaches on staff teaching position players and in addition to receiving football pointers, there’s moral instruction as well,” Berdis stated. “As a coach you never want to have strong feelings regarding one of your players over another, but I’m just so proud of Brad and what he has accomplished, both on and off the field.”
Former Chaney player Rob Sylvester, who serves as offensive and defensive line coach at Youngstown Christian, is a first-time camp instructor.
“Brad and I have that Chaney connection and the camp is absolutely phenomenal for the entire community. I was unable to work last year, but jumped at the opportunity when Coach Berdis asked me to work this year,” Sylvester said. “He doesn’t have to do this, yet he and his wife devote their time and resources and everyone is so appreciative of their efforts.”
East Panthers head coach P.J. Mays was working his fourth camp.
“Brad has given so much back to the community where he grew up and there are so many reasons why I am here helping out,” Mays added. “I want to support Brad, what he is doing for our youth and besides, it’s fun to get back into that football mindset once again.”
Former YSU basketball player Allister Green (1995-97), whose son A.J. was attending camp, called the camp a great opportunity to make new friends.
“This is the type of camp that gives your children hopes and dreams. Looking at Brad, the kids now realize what can happen when you work hard and have determination,” Green said.
Green’s son is an eighth-grader at Austintown Middle School and plays defensive tackle in football. He’s also a member of the Falcons’ basketball team.
“I came to make new friends and learn more about my position. I just appreciate the opportunity to learn from some of the very best coaches in the area,” A.J. added.
Jamar Nuby, a ninth-grader at Youngstown Christian High School, is a running back and outside linebacker for the Eagles and coach Brian Marrow, who also served on the camp’s instructional staff.
“It’s nice to be able to learn from someone who has been a positive influence on so many people,” Nuby said.
Nuby’s mother, Audrey, called the camp an excellent way for everyone to learn things both on the field and when away from the game.
“This was a great day for the kids to meet those who have succeeded in life and who willingly give back to their community,” she said.
The Smiths plan every portion of the camp. This year’s theme was “Dream It, Do It.”
“Planning camp is like planning a wedding because it takes a great amount of time in order to get everything done properly. It’s important to Brad and me that the kids have a great experience so we try to do everything ourselves,” Rosalynn said. “The life skills presentation began as an idea from my friend, Janielle Moss. We encourage exercise and want them to receive meaningful gifts, but we also want them to pursue their dreams so this year’s theme was very fitting.”
Amarra Prieto, a fourth-grader at Discovery at Kirkmere School, was attending her first camp.
“I want to be a famous basketball player and wanted to try something this summer. I enjoyed the entire camp, but really liked the life skills part,” she said.
Her mother, Shamara Martin, said the overall turnout was impressive.
“There aren’t a lot of opportunities like this for children. With excellent instructors, today’s turnout was absolutely fantastic,” she said.”
Smith, who has spent an off-season serving an internship with Rodale, Inc. mostly writing for its Men’s Health magazine, is looking forward to the upcoming season with the Eagles and especially coach Chip Kelly.
“I’m healthy, I feel good and had a pretty good minicamp. It’s a great opportunity for me with the Eagles and I am looking forward to the season,” he said. “I’m looking forward to playing for coach Kelly because I like the fact that in his offense, everyone touches the ball.”