Ravens Kicker Justin Tucker Will Redeem himself

The Baltimore Ravens missed out on a chance to put the NFL on notice when they lost to the red-hot New Orleans Saints on Sunday, October 21, 2018 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The Ravens fell just short of tying the game when kicker Justin Tucker missed an extra point attempt late in the fourth quarter.

It was the first time that Tucker missed an extra point attempt of his seven-year NFL career. He didn’t miss any extra point attempts while kicking in college at Texas either.

Tucker vows to turn things around when he takes the field again.

“We are going to keep working on the practice field into more kicks made in games. I feel like I cost us the game. It’s a tough thing to grapple with,” Tucker said after the game.

Tucker says he wanted to stand in front of the media after the game to be held accountable for the 24 – 23 loss. His desire to face the music is admirable, especially since he wanted to use the humbling experience as a learning moment for his young son.

The Ravens now hold a 4 – 3 record after the loss to New Orleans, but all is not lost. Tucker is still the guy his teammates trust.

Wide receiver Michael Crabtree knows how Tucker feels all too well. He dropped a game-winning touchdown against the Cleveland Browns a few weeks ago but rebounded by making multiple plays in their shutout win over the Tennessee Titans the following week.

“It happens, man. Tucker, that boy is a pro. It’s the same thing I went through two weeks ago. He’s a pro. I ain’t worried about Tucker,” Crabtree said after the game.

The outcome of a game can rarely be placed on a single play. The veteran kicker has more than come through for Baltimore in the past and they know he’ll come through in the future.

“Justin’s the best in the world at what he does. He’s the most confident person that I know,” quarterback Joe Flacco said.

Ackneil “Neil” Muldrow II Passes, Aged 80

— Mr. Ackneil “Neil” Muldrow II, a Baltimore Times consultant and contributor, has unfortunately passed away on Thursday, October 25th, 2018.

A man who reached many hearts beyond the borders of Baltimore with his newsletter platform, “Neil’s Nation”, Mr. Muldrow, was always caring, jovial, and determined to see those who were like him succeed. He spent years devoted to the advancement of small businesses and local initiatives in an effort to build up his people, and the city he called home. Mr. Muldrow knew everybody, and everybody knew him as kind, knowledgable, wise and incredibly able into his old age.

A relic of what it meant to grow up African-American in the United States during the civil rights era, a man who took it upon himself, personally, to fight for the rights of each and every person of color in our nation today.

Here at the Baltimore Times, where he spent some of his final days making us laugh, teaching us, and doing anything he could to further advance those around him, we can confidently say, the world has lost a treasure of a human being, and he will be sorely missed by all of us here, for a very long time.

In Memoriam, Mr. Ackneil “Neil” Muldrow, II.

A High School Diploma With No High School

A single mother and east Ugandan refugee who wanted to beat the oldest of her six children to a high school diploma; a high school dropout who became a GED dropout because of math; a former AP Honors student who got sidetracked; and a 19-year-old who left high school to support her family.

These are just four stories from the 42 graduates who walked in the 2018 Anne Arundel County High School Diploma Student Recognition Ceremony at the Pascal Center for Performing Arts at Anne Arundel Community College’s campus on Wednesday, October 17, 2018.

“Some of our students face challenges, making it hard to get to class and stay in the program,” said Rena Burkowsky, the basic skills program manager for AACC’s School of Continuing Education and Workforce Development Adult Basic Skills Program, commonly known as Anne Arundel County Public Schools National External Diploma Program (NEDP).

Individuals who pass the GED exam or complete the NEDP earn a Maryland High School Diploma issued by the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Many enrolled in AACC’s Adult Basic Skills classes throughout the county, including the Ordnance Road Correctional Center.

“When they earn their diploma, it is due to a lot of hard work and a tremendous amount of perseverance. It’s truly amazing,” Burkowsky said.

New graduate, Wibabara Mupende was forced to leave her home in Uganda because of political issues. She arrived in America at the age of 31.

“There were many things that encouraged me to get my high school diploma, but there was one particular instance that pushed me to make that move,” Mupende said. “At work, there was an open position to be a department coordinator, to which I had all the experience needed but I failed to meet the guidelines because I could not present my high school diploma [which she lost in her family’s flight from Uganda].”

Mupende says her biggest challenge was finding a balance between home, work and school.

“It was not easy to juggle everything having six children at home, while working full-time and going to school,” she said. “I want to set an example for my children and show them that they can achieve their goals and overcome their circumstances if they work hard.”

Graduate Christina Edwards said she knew getting her diploma would open doors that were previously closed.

Christina Edwards

Nyia Curtis

Christina Edwards

“I felt like it’s what was required of me to have a better life, the calling on my life that needs to be fulfilled,” said Edwards, the oldest of five children in her family.

“I heard about the program not to long after I tried another program. I figured it would be hard, but I knew I would do whatever it took,” she said. “I want my brothers and sister to go after their dreams and say ‘I want to be like my big sister, when she gets knocked down she always gets back up, she fights and she is determined to get where she wants to be.’ I want my whole story to be heard one day, I want it to inspire people young or old.”

Ruben Guzman

Nyia Curtis

Ruben Guzman

Ruben Guzman earned his diploma after severe difficulties in math, particularly algebra.

“But, I studied every day and I finally got it,” he said. “The first time I heard about the program was when I was 20 and I went in and took the placement exam. I [couldn’t] wait to walk across that stage and, for my mom and dad to see their son walking across that stage makes me so proud,” said Guzman, who is now taking general studies courses in college.

Brianna Garton

Nyia Curtis

Brianna Garton

Brianna Garton says high school was a challenge. She had a lot of distractions at home.

“That’s when my counselors told me I could go to AACC and get caught up before I wasted too much time,” Garton said. “The primary challenge for me was accepting the fact that I had failed two classes and then dealing with everyone’s opinions about me not graduating the traditional way.”

Garton says she is driven by the fact that she didn’t have a stable home or a normal childhood.

“So school was my one-way ticket out. My education was my way out. The message I have for others is that if something is important don’t wait— graduate, get your education. You can’t help others until you’ve helped yourself.”

High Schooler Leads Diaper Drive

These necessities are needed for infants an estimated 10 times per-day and cost an average $70 to $80 per month. For many poor or low-income families, this expense often poses a financial hardship. These items are diapers. But the efforts of high school student Lauren Eisele, the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) and the University of Maryland School of Social Work, has helped to lighten the load— financial load, that is.

Lauren, UMMC, and the University of Maryland School of Social Work all partnered to organize a drive that collected over 105,000 diapers, and 25,000 wipes. Proctor & Gamble also contributed to these efforts. The diapers and wipes were distributed to community partners on Friday, October 19, 2018 at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Central Receiving Building located at 1000 Hilltop Circle in Baltimore, Maryland..

Reflecting on a conversation with Bronwyn Mayden, MSW, assistant dean at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, 15-year-old Lauren shared how it all began.

“I wanted to do some volunteer work over the summer and asked Ms. Mayden in the UMB School of Social Work how I could help, and she told me about the urgent need for diapers and explained why,” she said. “I was so sad to know that so many families can’t afford to buy diapers and can’t use food stamps to purchase them.”

She added, “After doing some research online, I found out that this is a need all over the world and there is even a Diaper Awareness Week that occurs every September. So I set a goal to collect over 50,000 diapers.”

Lauren said she realized more help would be needed.

“After about a month, I realized that I couldn’t collect 50,000 all by myself so I asked Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and CEO of UMMC if we could promote a Diaper Drive at UMMC and he agreed. UMMC does so much to help people in the Baltimore community and I hoped that this would be a project that people would care about.”

She continued, “Once the flyer went out, diapers started coming in everyday! Employees not only wanted to donate diapers but help in any way they could to help us reach the goal. An employee even asked Proctor and Gamble to donate diapers and got a ‘yes’. The company donated 16,000 diapers and 14,000 wipes. In five weeks we brought in over 105,000 diapers and 25,000 wipes. Imagine what we can do with more time!”

According to the University of Maryland School of Social Work, one in three families must make the difficult choice between food and diapers for their baby each day.

“It made me realize how many people need help and that in a small way I could make a difference to families,” said Lauren who started the project in June. “I am so grateful for all the support that this project received and hope that many families won’t have to worry about this issue for a long while.”

When asked if she plans to continue this endeavor, Lauren replied: “Yes, babies and children need diapers all the time and I plan to continue to raise awareness. My goal is to collect 500,000 diapers by next year and with UMMC’s help as well as others in the community, we will be successful!”

Mayden also serves as executive director of Promise Heights, which seeks to improve the lives of children and families in the West Baltimore neighborhood of Upton/Druid Heights. She talked about Lauren’s efforts.

“I can’t thank Lauren enough for wanting to do something to help somebody,” said Mayden. “She put the muscle behind the idea to collect diapers which was outstanding.”

Mayden highlighted that some families cut back on basics such as food, utilities or child care to purchase diapers, while others need to leave their infants in soiled diapers for longer periods of time, leading to potential health risks.

Bronwyn Mayden MSW, assistant dean at the University of Maryland School of Social Work admiring an infant.

Bronwyn Mayden MSW, assistant dean at the University of Maryland School of Social Work admiring an infant.

Sierra Mason with her baby Saniya, along with Za’Mari and Za’Vion Nipper. They were among those in attendance at a pamper drive distribution event held at the University of Maryland Baltimore County

Sierra Mason with her baby Saniya, along with Za’Mari and Za’Vion Nipper. They were among those in attendance at a pamper drive distribution event held at the University of Maryland Baltimore County

Troy Brown holding a box of diapers during the event.

Troy Brown holding a box of diapers during the event.

“You can’t take your baby to daycare and not have a supply of diapers for the child,” she said. “Wearing diapers for long periods of time also causes Urinary Tract Infection and bad rashes. We are reaching out to B’more for Healthy Babies and Head Start Centers. We also plan to approach schools. We want to be fair to everyone and help as many babies as we can.”

Mayden added, “Lauren, UMMC, and the University of Maryland School of Social Work have started a movement. They are making a commitment to babies in Baltimore. “

For more information or to donate diapers visit www.ummsfoundation.org/diaperdrive

Discussing Depression, Anxiety, Chronic Disease And Suicide Prevention In Men

Anxiety. Chronic disease. Depression. Suicide. While these may not be fun topics for people to discuss, they are all vitally important to an individual’s health.

On November 28, 2018, the University of Maryland Medical System and the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) are bringing together health experts, individuals with “lived experiences” and community members for the “Not All Wounds Are Visible – Community Conversations: Let’s Talk About Depression and Anxiety” event to discuss these issues.

Clinicians and other subject matter experts will be facilitating conversations about the impact of depression and anxiety on men, seniors and those managing chronic disease. The important topic of suicide prevention will be also be discussed.

This free event provides an opportunity to hear from and talk to health care professionals and community leaders, including Washington D.C. attorney and author Joshua Rogers and Bowie City Councilman Michael Esteve, about depression and anxiety and the road to recovery.

Retired Baltimore Ravens running back and Super Bowl XXXV champion Jamal Lewis is the event’s keynote speaker. He will share lessons learned along his journey from the bright light of stardom to the shadows of depression and thoughts of suicide, and as he redefined himself after the “cheerleaders” in his life disappeared.

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and it’s common for someone with depression to also suffer from anxiety. While the causes of anxiety and depression are as different as people are, for men, social norms around masculinity can make these topics difficult to talk about.

A 2018 study in the journal, JAMA Psychiatry revealed that 30 percent of men have suffered from a period of depression in their lifetime. Nine percent of men in the United States have daily feelings of depression or anxiety according to data from the National Health Interview Survey, yet only one in four spoke to a mental health professional.

Older adults are at risk of misdiagnosis and lack of treatment because some of their symptoms can mimic normal age-related issues or be mistakenly attributed to other illnesses, medications, or life changes. Elderly patients might also be reluctant to talk about their feelings or fail to understand that physical symptoms can be a sign of depression. For elderly people living independently, isolation can make it difficult to reach out for help. According to the Mayo Clinic, men with depression often go undiagnosed. Symptoms may include feelings of sadness or hopelessness, difficulty sleeping, tiredness, irritability or inappropriate anger.

Downplaying signs and symptoms and a reluctance to discuss and seek treatment may contribute to the failure to recognize depression related symptoms.

Anxiety and depression do not decline with age. Excessive anxiety that causes distress or that interferes with daily activities is not a normal part of aging, and can lead to a variety of health problems and decreased functioning in everyday life. Contributing factors include increased stressful situations such as the loss of friends and family members and decreased mobility, which lead to greater isolation.

Additionally, older adults are often hesitant to report symptoms of depression or anxiety because they grew up at a time when mental illness was stigmatized. Anxiety affects as much as 10 to 20 percent of the older population, although it often remains undiagnosed, according to the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation. A recent study from the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that more than 27 percent of older adults under the care of an aging service provider have symptoms of anxiety that may not amount to a diagnosed disorder, but significantly affect their functioning.

Managing chronic disease or pain at any age often causes a significant increase in symptoms of depression or anxiety. People with depression are three times more likely to develop chronic pain or pain that lasts beyond the typical time it takes for an illness or injury to heal. It is important for anyone with a chronic condition to discuss persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood feelings with their health care provider so that their physical and mental health can be managed together.

The United States saw a 25 percent increase in suicides across all ages and genders between 1999 and 2016. Suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the country. The highest suicide rate is among adults between 45 and 54 years of age, and the second highest rate is among those 85 years or older. Nearly 121 people commit suicide in the U.S. every day, with men being four times more likely than women to commit suicide, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The World Health Organization reports that 75 percent of people with mental disorders remain untreated, with almost 1 million people turning to suicide each year.

According to research by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 90 percent of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable and potentially treatable illness including depression, anxiety, and alcohol or other substance use. Specific behaviors including increased use of alcohol or drugs, acting recklessly, sleeping too much or too little and conversations about feeling trapped or being a burden to others may be warning signs of suicide.

The November 28 event is designed for community members to hear from and ask questions of physicians and other health care professionals about mental health in men, seniors and those managing chronic illnesses. Visit: www.umms.org/communityhealth for a complete list of program speakers and to register for this important conversation.

More Volunteers Needed As Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival Continues To Grow

On September 29, 2018, eclectic bands, energetic dancers, talented actors, skilled drummers, performers, conscious poets, vendors and community organizations gathered to celebrate the cultural heritage of the African diaspora in both traditional and new ways at he Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival at the City Dock in Annapolis.

The Annapolis Drum & Bugle Corps kicked off the festivities as a host of officials and stakeholders made a grand entrance behind them. When they reached Susan Campbell Park, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley helped to pass out rose petals to attendees who then threw them into the water to honor loved ones. A short time later, Terrell Freeman continued the tradition of ancestral remembrance through leading a libation ceremony and serving as the event’s emcee.

“We are in for a beautiful day of entertainment,” said Freeman during the official welcome. “Keeping this on line and in point, we are going to move right on into our libations to give praise and due to our ancestors and our creator, and make sure that we are grounded today, for a great celebration today of our heritage, of our city, of our people.”

Tour buses filled with people from N.J. and N.Y. returned to experience another cultural celebration in Annapolis. This year, approximately 8,000 festivalgoers showed up to enjoy festivities on a beautiful rain-free day.

Local kid rapper, “Young Dylan,” who has appeared numerous times on The Ellen Show; and Sim the Poet were headliners at this year’s event. Youth entrepreneurs showed up to sell jewelry, books, accessories, t-shirts and other items. Once again, The Clones of Funk placed a finishing touch on a busy day by delivering pulsating musical beats, which inspired hand clapping and dancing. The group is often known for officially ending fun and fellowship, during the annual festival.

The Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival Chairperson Jan F. Lee pointed out that last year’s turnout was approximately 5,000 attendees; and this year’s turn out was approximately 8000— the primary goal of increasing attendance was indeed accomplished.

Longtime festival volunteer Danielle Young says that the presence of young entrepreneurs this year was very welcome and hopes that it will continue. She also pointed out that the increased community participation made the festival so much better.

“It felt like the old days. We had an amazing turnout,” Young said. “The support that we received from the community, the vendors and the festival committee was more than I could have ever imagined.”

While looking toward the future, Lee says she will continue her leadership role.

“For next year, we are looking to add some key roles to the team. We are gearing up for the 30th Annual Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival and we need more manpower! Positions available include Vice-Chair, Hospitality Committee Chair, and Sponsorship/Fundraiser Chair,” Lee said. “We are volunteer staff, so we are looking for passionate, motivated people who want to give back to their community and support this wonderful legacy.”

Finding Happiness And Success Through Daily Habits

As we get older, we tend to discover things about ourselves along the way— like what makes us happy; what makes us sad; what are our truest passions and our deepest desires.

Many of these discoveries take time, but I believe that humans have an innate desire for more. Humans consistently search for achievement and steadily crave progress to reach a peak mentally, of what I like to call happiness and fulfillment— the highest of high.

Scientifically, this happens when neurotransmitters or the brain’s happy chemicals— dopamine and serotonin are released into the brain. Reaching your mental peak relies on many factors but one of the most influential is deeply embedded in our daily habits. Anything that you desire, whether it be material success, happiness, fulfillment or personal enlightenment lies in small things done repeatedly over long periods of time.

Let’s get one thing straight first and foremost— our brain is not designed to ensure our happiness, it’s designed to ensure our survival. It’s designed for reproduction, eating and sleeping. Anything else is extra credit, as I like to say.

Attaining happiness and personal fulfillment or whatever that may look like for you— is your job, and your job only. When I say this, I mean the true underpinnings of your success and happiness comes from you.

We cannot simply rely on our body and our mind to give us what we want, we must tell it. Our quest for happiness, success and fulfillment relies on our desire and the discipline to achieve and maintain our goals.

To ensure that I am clear: you can’t just expect to become happy the same way that your body unconsciously becomes hungry. Happy people choose happiness; successful people choose success; and people who are fulfilled have cultivated consistent habits, which allowed them to reach their fulfilled state. You must intentionally focus on your desires consistently to achieve them.

As a self-empowerment workshop curator for Positively Caviar, Inc., it’s my job to gather knowledge about how the body and mind operate so that I can educate, motivate and inspire youth to reach their fullest potential. I have researched from neuroscience to psychology, genetics to meditation, and even spirituality to gain insights into the human experience. Again, the clearest message I gathered from my research rests upon our daily habits. Our brain is constantly changing to meet our needs and desires.

In the book “Hardwiring Happiness,” author Rick Hanson explains, “Whatever we repeatedly sense and feel and want and think, is slowly but surely sculpting [the] neural structure [of our brains].”

All of things we do on a consistent basis has an extreme impact on our brain through a process known as neuroplasticity. This process is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself and form new neural pathways that make you, you.

We have more power than we think and it remains up to us to choose this power and push ourselves to reach the highest highs. This tough mental shift maybe difficult at first, but it’s absolutely necessary to realize that happiness and success in life are not automatically endowed upon us.

These things won’t come to you on a silver platter. You have to consciously want them. You must make a conscious choice and have a strong desire, which should be part of your daily habits.

Positively Caviar, Inc. is a nonprofit organization focused on a message of positivity and optimism in our digitally centric lives. Once a month, our Nucleus Team writes a column focused on mental and physical health tips, scientific studies, nutrition facts and stories that are positive in nature to support a purposeful and positive lifestyle. To learn more about our organization, the nucleus team or how you join our positive movement, visit: staybasedandpositive.com

It’s Medicare Open Enrollment Season. Here’s What You Need To Know:

Medicare’s Annual Election Period is here. Beginning October 15, seniors will choose their Medicare plans for 2019. They’ll have to make their selections by December 7 for coverage that takes effect January 1.

The enrollment process will be different than previous years. This time, seniors will have the chance to “test-drive” plans at the beginning of the year— and select a different plan if their initial choice doesn’t meet their budgetary or healthcare needs.

That flexibility will ensure that Medicare meets the needs of its beneficiaries better than ever before.

Medicare covers about 60 million Americans. Seniors become eligible for all of the program’s components— Parts A, B, C and D— when they turn 65.

Part A pays for hospital stays. Part B covers doctor visits, same-day surgeries, and potent medications administered in physicians’ offices. Part D is Medicare’s optional prescription drug benefit.

Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage is administered by private insurance carriers and places a cap on the out-of-pocket expenses not available on Parts A and B of Original Medicare. Part C typically includes the prescription drug benefit at no additional cost.

More than 20 million Americans are enrolled in 2,300 different Medicare Advantage plans, each with its own mix of benefits, monthly premiums, copays and out-of-pocket spending.

Deciding on a plan can be tricky. Beneficiaries must consider lifestyle factors, how much they can afford to spend, and what their future health needs may be.

In recent years, Congress didn’t make those decisions easier. Since 2011, seniors who chose a Medicare Advantage plan had 45 days to “disenroll” if it wasn’t right for them. But their only alternative was enrolling in traditional Medicare.

Thankfully, that won’t be the case anymore. Next year, beneficiaries who enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan will have the ability to switch to another Advantage plan at any point within the first three months of 2019. The change gives seniors much more flexibility and can make open enrollment less stressful.

Seniors may find all these options empowering— and overwhelming. Fortunately, help is available.

Medicare.gov contains a wealth of information that can offer assistance to beneficiaries.

Seniors can consult licensed health insurance agents and brokers. Many have decades of experience and are specially trained to educate consumers. Nearly three-quarters of agents and brokers spend a significant portion of their time explaining coverage to clients and investigating consumer insurance options.

Agents and brokers can help seniors determine which Medicare Advantage plan would be best for them— or whether they’d be better off enrolling in traditional Medicare.

Those who live in a FEMA-declared disaster area during the Annual Election Period may qualify for a Special Election Period outside of the normal enrollment window. Seniors can ask an insurance professional if a Special Election Period has been announced.

Medicare covers nearly one in five Americans. This open enrollment season, that population will find that they have more choices— and more flexibility. Savvy seniors should take advantage.

Janet Trautwein is CEO of the National Association of Health Underwriters. For more information, visit the website: www.nahu.org.

Marylanders Reminded Of New Federal Law That Allows Free Credit Freeze And Thaw

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh encourages Maryland residents to take advantage of a new federal law effective September 21, 2018, that gives consumers the right to place a freeze on their credit reports and temporarily or permanently remove the freeze without charge.

“There have been hundreds of millions of personal data records lost or stolen due to data breaches over the last 10 years,” said Attorney General Frosh. “Placing a freeze on your credit is one of the most effective methods of protecting yourself and your children from becoming victims of identity theft.”

A credit freeze prevents a potential creditor from seeing your credit report without your express permission. If a potential creditor cannot see your credit report, they are less likely to open a new credit card, cellphone, utility, or other account for an identity thief. Placing a fraud alert on your credit report notifies potential creditors that there is a problem, but does not prevent the creditor from seeing your credit report. Credit bureaus also offer a product known as a credit “lock,” but it may not have the same legal protections as a credit-freeze. A freeze remains in effect until the consumer decides to remove it.

The new federal law not only waives the fees for freezing a credit report, but also waives the fees for temporarily “thawing” a credit report if the consumer needs to apply for credit, rent an apartment, or engage in another transaction in which the credit report needs to be reviewed.

Attorney General Frosh noted that consumers should freeze their reports with each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Information about placing freezes with those bureaus may be found at www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services, www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/category/fraud-and-identity-theft/security-freeze, and www.transunion.com/credit-freeze.

The law also enables parents to place credit freezes at no cost for children under the age of 16. Children are often victims of identity theft because of their unblemished credit records and because the identity theft is less likely to be detected.

Individuals who are currently in the process of making a large purchase such as a car or home may wish to wait until after that purchase to freeze their credit.

Information about how to protect yourself against identity theft can be found on the at www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/pages/identitytheft or by calling the Attorney General’s Identity Theft Unit at 410-576-6491.

Sunday Night Football Bus Makes Special Stop In Baltimore

Comcast and NBC Sports collaborated to bring the Sunday Night Football (SNF) Tour bus to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore to afford youth the opportunity to express their creativity through lively engagement in sports-related activity and ventures.

Part of the central mission of the Boys & Girls Club is to inspire and empower youth in various forms through robust engagement in sports and recreation, education and the arts, and the Club’s mission worked concurrently with the purpose of the SNF Bus Tour.

On the afternoon of October 12, 2018, the SNF Bus made a stop at Webster M. Kendricks Recreation Center in West Baltimore to give students an experience they would perhaps never forget.

Jessica Gappa, director of external affairs for Comcast’s Beltway region, acted as the liaison for Comcast with its Boys & Girls Club partnership. She thought the event had purpose and meaning.

“A lot of our work really focuses on the fact that, to us, success starts with opportunity so we want to give opportunity to the kids, particularly through the Boys & Girls clubs,” Gappa said.

Gappa, who is also Boys & Girls Club board member said another focus of the partnership between Comcast and the Boys & Girls Club centers on digital literacy and digital inclusion. She added that the network provider recently awarded the Boys & Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore a $25,000 grant for the MyFuture program, a technology initiative designed to teach Club members about the digital world and ignite their passion for technology.

The students involved in the event were mainly kindergarten through fifth grade students most of whom attend Callaway Elementary and are members of the Boys & Girls Club of the Webster Kendricks Branch.

For the duration of the event, the children remained upbeat and jubilant, decorating footballs and participating in various arts and crafts, among other hands-on activities. The day culminated with a tour of the SNF bus, something the students and counselors anticipated with glaring excitement.

The partnership between the Boys & Girls Clubs and Comcast NBCUniversal dates back nearly two decades. In 2014, the two organizations entered a five-year partnership to support the development of MyFuture, which is also designed to prepare students to compete in a digital economy and enhance digital skills and interests.

Jeff Breslin, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore said he commends the platform NBC and the NFL has bestowed to Baltimore youth for participation in sports and recreational activities.

“It’s really cool. I’m a big believer that nothing unifies like sport,” Breslin said of the SNF Bus Tour event. “To give our kids a chance to see the Sunday Night Football bus and see the power of sports— whether they’re playing or watching— it’s such an incredible opportunity. To give them that opportunity means a lot to us as an organization.”

The SNF Bus generally makes tour stops on the weekends of NFL games, but Baltimore was the first stop that SNF has ever made mid-week, according to Gappa. With the NFL season well underway, the tour bus has also made stops at Philadelphia, Green Bay, Wisconsin; Houston, Detroit; Foxborough, Massachusetts; and Pittsburgh, said Sean Martin, tour manager of the SNF Tour Bus.

The SNF Bus endeavors to provide interactive, first-hand experience for fans and visitors, with features including: a display monitor presenting premium NFL video and footage; an “On Her Turf” selfie mirror; an Interactive Players Wall showing fans how they fare against their favorite players; a map highlighting the SNF’s route and 17 tour stops, a Player of the Game wall display; a few redesigned NFL lockers enhanced with player name plates and team gloves; a “football wall”; and several other aspects to give children, parents, fans, tourists and others an indelible SNF Tour Bus encounter.

Sounds of glee and joy permeated throughout the recreation center as the children enjoyed a day off from school to participate in numerous activities some of them may not have been exposed to before.

Kaitlin Keefer, the education and STEM director of the Boys & Girls Club at the Kendricks Recreation Center location, believed the event had a profound impact based on feedback from the youth.

“I thought it was amazing,” said Keefer of the event. “There were several kids today that said that today was the funnest day they’ve ever had, that it was the greatest day they’ve had in a long time. They loved it.”