Former Angel Tree® kid turned Green Bay Packers player Kenny Clark continues to give back and support children of prisoners.
It's a sunny day in California, and Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark is back at Carter High School, his alma mater near San Bernardino, ready to welcome more than 300 Angel Tree® children to his 2019 football camp.
"It's going to be a good time," Kenny says. "Got a lot of my previous teammates here … a lot of kids coming out, and a lot of support from my city."
A former Angel Tree child himself, Kenny has actively given back to the Prison Fellowship® program in a variety of ways, but the football camp is a unique opportunity for children of incarcerated parents to play and learn from professional athletes and coaches.
Angel Tree hosts sports clinics across the country. Children of prisoners gain skills in various sports and learn about God's love. Through lessons, drills, and fun competition, kids who might not otherwise have a chance to attend events like these are treated like champions.
Angel Tree "did great things for me as a kid," Kenny says. "I just think it's always good to give back to Angel Tree. They're just a great organization that just helped me out. I think it's only right that I pay it forward and help them out."
MORE THAN JUST A FOOTBALL CLINIC
Helping with the event is camp director Coach Oscar Dillard, who has 30 years of coaching experience. In fact, he's known Kenny since the football player was a small child. "He attended a camp that I direct over at [California State University San Bernardino]. … We got the chance to see Kenny firsthand." Even then, Coach Oscar knew that Kenny was destined for big things.
The mission of Angel Tree Sports Clinic resonates with Coach Oscar. "Thirty years ago, I asked God, 'Look, this is what I have a passion for. I want to help kids learn the fundamentals of the game. If they don't go on to the NFL, [they can still] educate themselves in the passion that they like and make a career out of it,'" he shares. "So, whenever I do a camp, it's more than just a football camp—it's a camp about life."
Kenny, too, hopes the children get more out of the day than just football. "There's a lot of kids that have been coming here three years now," he says. "One day when I retire and these kids get older, this is something that they will [remember]. … They can say, 'Oh yeah, these camps—Kenny [went] through the same thing I went through, and seeing him hold on to these camps is going to help me go on and help the next kid.' I think that’s big."
BLESSING THE NEXT GENERATION
When Kenny looks at the children as they interact with and learn from his teammates, he sees himself in them. "It just reminds me of a younger me—a young guy just trying to figure out life without a parent all the time in their life."
After his own father went to prison, Kenny stepped up to help his mother with the family. "I think that just helped me to develop into the person I am today."
His teammates recognize Kenny's integrity and generosity. "He's been someone from day one who has been very focused—extremely hardworking guy," says Dean Lowry, Packers' defensive end and Kenny's good friend. "To come out here at [Kenny's former] high school and be a part of this great event has been really cool."
Kingsley Keke, another defensive end for the Packers, is here to learn from Kenny how to run a kids' sports clinic. "Kenny is a great teacher … a great guy to learn from."
From his own experience, Kenny knows that Angel Tree is a blessing to children, their families, and their incarcerated parents. "Just the simple fact that they're reaching that hand out, being able to put a smile on a kid's face, help out a family member, help out the parents to keep that relationship with [their] kids. ... It's only good that's going to come from that."
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