MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII - National Football League players traded the pigskin for garden tools with children from Marine Corps Base Hawaii’s Mokapu Elementary School during the NFL Legacy Project, Jan. 24.
The NFL Legacy Project’s purpose is to introduce players to their fans, with the intent of improving their community.
When the players visited MCB Hawaii for the first time, they focused on building a garden on the school grounds to promote healthy living and reap its benefit in a bountiful way.
NFL players such as Jason Pierre Paul, a well-known New York Giants defensive end, and Julius Peppers, a famed Chicago Bears defensive end, were among the all-star garden crew.
Instead of digging their cleats into the dirt, approximately 20 players and 20 children collectively dug with spades and planted greens to promote an active lifestyle for the children to incorporate into their routines.
Azieo McMillen, a 9-year-old student at Mokapu Elementary School, said it was awesome to meet the players, especially the statuesque Peppers.
“He was so cool and gave me high-fives,” McMillen said. “I learned about nutrition and helped plant vegetables, fruits and pretty flowers.”
McMillen also said they used stencils to paint words of inspiration like ‘exercise’ and ‘eat your veggies’ on garden stones to continually encourage the students once the players left.
In addition to planting a garden and painting inspirational stones, the players and children built a trellis, elevated garden boxes, picnic tables and benches. They left their mark by imprinting their hands and autographs onto the tabletops for a lasting impression.
Estella Euclide, a program specialist with MCB Hawaii’s Marine and Family Services, said the school is considering adding gardening to their curriculum to continue promoting healthy lifestyles because of the success of the garden.
Euclide added the school, parents and children are hopeful for the return of the NFL Legacy Project for years to come.
By digging in the dirt the children learned to use the tools for planting positive habits in their lives, and the players were afforded the chance to get dirty in a garden instead of AstroTurf and inspire children.