Local businesses step up to keep Joe Berger youth football camp going during pandemic

The NFL is not providing grants this year
Posted at 3:25 PM, Jul 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-21 19:57:12-04
Businesses tackle costs for youth football camp

The Joe Berger youth football camp looked a little different this year.

Cones marked places for kids to stand to attempt to keep a safe distance.

Campers were prescreened and split into two groups by grade to keep the numbers under a hundred per session and walk-ups were not allowed.

Still, a lot of fun was had.

"Oh they are having a riot," Scott Swinehart, a camp sponsor said. "They are having a riot. They don't know any different. They are making comments about how much fun they are having."

For the first seven Joe Berger youth football camps the NFL provided grants to cover the cost. This year due to the COVID-19 pandemic the NFL is not providing funds for any camps.

That wasn't going to stop the former Dolphins, Cowboys and Vikings offensive lineman from giving the kids this opportunity.

"With what went on in the spring and even now you can't call businesses and ask them for money and yet they stepped up on their own," Berger said. "And it just shows what a community like Newaygo and Grant and the area here means and how important these kids are to them."

Not only did the businesses come forward with enough money to fund the camp, directors actually had to turn money down because they already had enough to cover the cost.

"I love sponsoring this camp," Swinehart said. "I knew Joe from when I was a teacher here and it is great these kids come out, they have fun. Comments these kids are telling me I don't like to fail I didn't know if I'd like this camp , everyone is supporting me and we are having a lot of fun."

This year's camp also brought together the football coaching staffs at Newaygo and Tri County for instruction. Vikings head coach Phil Butler also represents Off Season Sports Academy, another event sponsor.

"We are excited just to do football drills with little kids and be excited," Butler said. "Joe's passion for communities and the kids and just to see the joy in their eyes, that is what it's about."

"That is one of the joys in growing up in a small town and this small town is that the business owners in this area care about our youth," Berger added. "They care about the kids and they want to do what they can to support.

As high as Joe holds his community, the outpouring of support still came as a little bit of a surprise considering the times.

"It is no secret that is has been a tough time since March here for a lot businesses and just people in general," Berger said. "To see the love and support that they were able to give through that, it did surprise me a little bit."