First year Pusch Ridge Christian Academy football coach Troy Cropp didn’t wait long to deliver a message to his new team: the football season isn’t just about winning games. It’s about players developing into leaders. It’s about having fun. It’s about giving back to the community.

This summer, the Lions’ team had the opportunity to experience each of those elements with the introduction of the football program’s youth football camp.

For six weeks, the team raised money to provide the camp for free to foster children from kindergarten through eighth grade. The junior varsity and varsity teams each participated in the fundraiser, raising $2,000 to host the camp.  

The players were also in charge of running the camp, which took place on July 16, 18, and 20.

“It’s all about helping bring joy to these kids,” said Elijah McKenna, who is entering his senior year on the varsity team. “My family has fostered in the past, and I know some of the things these kids go through.”

McKenna said running the camp has also helped him learn more about commitment and integrity, and he said he is hopeful the community and school continue to help those in need.

McKenna is just one example of what Cropp hoped the youth camp would accomplish. A total of 60 football players participated in running the camp.

“This teaches our kids how to lead by serving their local community,” said Cropp. “That’s what we are all about at Pusch Ridge, turning out leaders- positive Godly leaders. It’s also helped them learn what goes into coaching a team.”

Cropp said the camp was much enjoyed by the foster children, who had the opportunity to develop their basic football skills through cone, tackling, catching, and ladder drills.

One foster child, whose identity is concealed for state privacy reasons, said he enjoyed the opportunity of interacting with the high school football players.

“It’s been fun learning to tackle, and getting to tackle the older kids,” said the 13-year-old. “I’ve learned a lot from the drills, and the camp has been a lot of fun.”

Cropp said as long as he is coaching the Pusch Ridge football team, the youth camp will continue as an annual event.

“This is going to be a fruit in these kids’ lives that they will remember years down the road,” said Cropp. “We will do other events throughout the year, as this has built my conviction that this is the right thing to do. It’s not just about football and winning football games. It’s about getting kids to have a heart for the community and underserved.”

On the final day of the camp, the Lions hosted a family night flag football tournament with free food provided. Cropp said in the coming years, he expects the youth football camp to reach about 100 participants.

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