Courtesy: Todd Goldbeck, Xcel Sports Training
Thursday afternoon the All-Star players and coaches travelled to Bay Cliff Health Camp, located in Big Bay. Bay Cliff is a non-profit therapy and wellness center for children ages 3-17, who have physical disabilities. The primary summer camp is seven weeks and focuses on children with orthopedic, speech, vision and hearing disabilities. The children work towards goals of increased independence and living a fuller life. The All-Stars were taken to Bay Cliff in buses donated by Checker Cab of Marquette.Once the players arrived, they took their turn as coaches when they split up into different stations and showed the Bay Cliff campers football drills and skills. The campers were very excited to be interacting in such a fun and personal way with the players. Seeing the uninhibited campers beaming with smiles as they played football with the All-Star players is something that words simply cannot describe. They received handoffs from the quarterbacks and made their way through a tunnel of players to the â??endzoneâ?? where they practiced their celebration dances. Other groups showed the campers how to throw and catch or kick off, while others held big pads and let the campers run up and â??hitâ?? or block them. No matter what the campersâ?? physical ability, the players worked with them so they were able to get the feel of what it is like to practice football. In addition to the football drills, campers were given All-Star Game programs, which have the playersâ?? pictures and profiles. They were able to go around to as many All-Star players as they could and get autographs. It was quite a thrill for everyone involved. After the football portion was complete, the Bay Cliff campers invited the players to join them for dinner, which gave the players a glimpse into the routine of meal time. It seems that sometimes big, strong high school football players should be eating out of troughs, so it was good for them to be exposed to proper manners by the campers. Some of the â??Big Houseâ?? rules included: waiting for the dinner bell to enter the hall, no hats indoors, saying please and thank you, passing food to the right, no elbows on the table and no talking with your mouth full. Anytime a player was observed breaking any of these rules, there was a camper close by informing them of the proper way they should be conducting themselves. Joe Iwanicki, Marquette High School, spoke to the campers after dinner and thanked Bay Cliff on behalf of the All-Star players and coaches. â??This has been a lot of fun for us to come play football and spend time with you. We thank you for asking us to visit and also to have dinner with you. We will all remember our time spent here with you for a very long time.â?? There is no doubt, the trip was a huge success. As much as the campers enjoyed the visit, the players took away much more. A theme of All-Star week has always been to give back to the communities of the U.P., and the players saw first-hand at Bay Cliff what that means. As one of the All-Star coaches stated, â??Many things will come and go from our lives, but memories will last forever, and there were definitely many unbelievable memories made this year at Bay Cliff.â?? There is only one more day of practice left before the two teams take to the field on Saturday. Both teams have come quite a long way since the beginning of the week and are looking like teams who have played together for an entire season. The players have embraced each other as teammates, and it shows in their chemistry on the field. Saturday should be a very exciting match-up. Friday evening is the All-Star Banquet, which will provide the players a chance to see their families and tell them all about how the week has gone. It is being held at the NMU University Center, with the social beginning at 6 p.m. and the program to follow at 7 p.m. Saturday morning are the youth football games in the Dome. The first game is at 8:30 a.m. between Westwood-Ishpeming and Marquette. Game 2 is at 10:15 a.m. and is between Stephenson and Keewenaw, and the third game is at noon and features two Menominee teams. All youth games are free to attend, and any youth player in the games who wears his jersey to the All-Star Game gets in free.