Sunday, May 20, 2012

Stafford plays kickball for a good cause

Schoolyard game with a noble aim
Lions visit B.C. for kickball fundraiser

Written by Justin A. Hinkley

For a day, the Cereal City drafted six of the Motor City's biggest athletes to compete for the sake of some of Battle Creek's most vulnerable residents.

NFL stars Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, T.J. Duckett, Marcus Harris and Drew Stanton visited Bailey Park on Sunday for the second annual Kickball Classic, a fundraiser for Stanton's High 5ive Foundation. The foundation will give to Battle Creek's Community Inclusive Recreation, which works with special-needs individuals in the area.

"We're just trying to find ways to help out the community and an organization that believes the same things we do," Stanton said. "The big thing is raising an awareness of a great organization."

Stafford, Johnson, Burleson and Harris all are current stars of the resurgent Detroit Lions. Stanton was a Lion before signing as a free agent with the New York Jets and then was traded to the Indianapolis Colts. Duckett played for the Lions and later the Seattle Seahawks.

But on Sunday, the NFL stars called CIR students their teammates. Four CIR teams with celebrity players took on 20 other teams sponsored by area businesses. To play, each team raised money for the foundation.

Kickball "allows a lot of people to be involved," Stanton said. "It's a game that everyone can participate in and that's what this is all about."

For his work in Battle Creek, Mayor Susan Baldwin on Sunday gave Stanton a key to the city and made him an honorary citizen of Battle Creek.

Linda Linke, executive director of CIR, said the partnership with Stanton's foundation was a natural, and having CIR students play alongside pro athletes would inspire them to push themselves.

"We love it," Linke said. "Our missions are so similar. And this is inspiring people to reach their personal goals."

Linke and Stanton said they hoped the celebrity draw of the NFL would bring attention to the mission of High 5ive and CIR.

Hundreds of people clogged areas between the fields at Bailey Park, waiting to get an autograph and a picture with the NFL athletes and to watch them play in their hometown.

"This is public awareness at its best," Linke said.

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