HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo – When the clock on the scoreboard hit zero at Valor Christian High School, the score was tied. But based on the reactions of the coaches and the players, everyone was a winner.
The Global Down Syndrome Foundation hosted former Denver Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey’s Dare to Play Football camp and the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders' Dare to Cheer camp Saturday.
“They are all about fun,” McCaffrey said. “Sometimes when you play sports you let the competitiveness get to be too important – obviously at the pro level and collegiate level. This reminds of when you were a kid and you just played to have fun, and that’s what this is all about. Football, family and, most importantly, fun.”
This year marked the fourth annual camp and it continues to grow in size and scope. This year there were more than 50 football players and cheerleaders from around Colorado and around the country. McCaffrey said they’ve had kids from as far away as Philadelphia participate in the past.
The Denver Broncos Cheerleaders were also involved, as they worked with more than 20 young cheerleaders. The Dare to Cheer Cheerleaders are also a part of the Junior Denver Broncos Cheerleaders and will perform at four Broncos’ games this year.
Thunder the Broncos' mascot was also in attendance at the post game tailgate party.
The Broncos Cheerleaders worked with the Dare to Cheer Cheerleaders for about 10 hours this week in preparation for Saturday and they’ll continue to work about three to four hours a month on their routines for game day.
“The best part is just seeing their faces – interacting with the kids, giving them hugs,” said Teresa Shear, the Broncos’ Director of Cheerleaders and Game Day Entertainment.
“It’s such a special day for all of us, I think we get more out of it than they do. Just having them be a part of a football game – something that they might not be able to do -- is very special.”
McCaffrey had two former teammates join him as celebrity head coaches. Kicker David Treadwell, who was with the Broncos from 1989-1992, and Ben Hamilton, an offensive lineman with the Broncos from 2001-2009.
“That’s one of the things that you get to do playing team sports and playing football – meeting a lot of wonderful people that you end up being friends with for life, and the same goes for the kids at our camp,” McCaffrey said.
While the camp is designed to provide opportunities to athletes with Down Syndrome, it turns into a fun time for everyone involved.
“This camp is all about helping young men and women with Down Syndrome reach their full potential through sports,” McCaffrey said. “There’s not a whole lot of opportunities for young men and women with Down Syndrome to play team sports and so we decided it would be a good opportunity for them.
“It’s an opportunity for them, it’s an even bigger opportunity for me, the high school players that are out here and the coaches that get to be a part of it.”