U.P. Football All-Stars visit Bay Cliff Health Camp

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MARQUETTE, Mi. Thursday afternoon the All-Star players and coaches traveled to Bay Cliff Health Camp, located in Big Bay with some help from Checker Bus. Bay Cliff is a non-profit therapy and wellness center for children ages 3-17, who have a variety of physical disabilities. The primary summer camp is seven weeks, and focuses on children with orthopedic, speech, vision and hearing disabilities.

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 “end zone”, where they knocked over big linemen with blocking pads, and spiked the ball. Other groups showed the campers how to throw and catch or kick a field goal. No matter what the campers’ physical ability, the players worked with them so they were able to have as much fun as they could playing football.

In addition to the football drills, Bay Cliff campers were given All-Star Game programs, which have the players’ pictures and profiles inside. Campers were able to go around to as many All-Star players as they could and get autographs as well. It was quite a thrill for everyone involved, both Bay Cliff campers and All-Star players

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 their 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 “Big House” 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.

Blake Hewitt (Black Team) from Westwood High School, spoke to the campers after dinner and thanked Bay Cliff on behalf of the All-Star players and coaches. “We thank you for inviting us to visit. We have been looking forward to our visit here all week. It is very special for us to come here and be able to spend time with all of you. This is our favorite part of the week, by far.”

Coach Paul Jacobson, head coach at Negaunee, spoke to the group and also thanked the Bay Cliff staff and the campers for being such great hosts. He noted, “This trip to Bay Cliff by the All-Star players is the highlight of the week for all of us players and coaches.”

There is no doubt, the trip was once again a huge success. As much as the campers enjoyed the visit, the players took away just as much. A theme of All-Star week is always 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, “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.”

Jilbert’s Dairy Welcomes Players Back
When the All-Star players returned back to campus, there was a special treat waiting for them, ice cream from Jilbert’s Dairy. Jilbert’s has been a long-time supporter of the All-Star Game, and is always generous when it comes to providing for the players. The players enjoyed getting off their feet and just relaxing while enjoying a late-night treat.

As for the game itself, 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 friends, and it shows in their chemistry on and off the field. Saturday should be a very exciting match-up. There are two practices scheduled during the day Friday.

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-Grand Ballroom, with the social beginning at 6PM, and the program to follow at 7PM.

Saturday is the game. Doors open at noon, with player introductions to begin at 1PM and kickoff to follow afterward.