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Del Rio, Dawkins Help Children Dare to Play


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the NFL, it might seem that winning is the only thing that matters when it comes to football.

That couldn't have been farther from the truth during Saturday's Dare to Play Football Camp.

The camp, hosted by former Bronco Ed McCaffrey and the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, allows children with Down syndrome to live out their dream of playing football.

"This camp is about camaraderie, friendship and competition," McCaffrey said. "It's also about empowering our campers with confidence that they will take with them the rest of their lives."

Brian Dawkins and Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio served as coaches for the two teams, but Saturday's event wasn't only about the football players.

The Denver Broncos Cheerleaders also hosted the Dare to Cheer camp for children with Down syndrome, and their campers performed a sideline cheer and a full halftime show.

It was just like a real NFL gameday, as the Mile High Skydivers made a grand entrance to Valor Christian High School, Miles the mascot and a marching band were there and two campers sung the National Anthem.

"I'm so excited," Dare to Play camper Brenden said before the game. "It's really fun out there."

Once the game started, there were smiles from ear to ear on every camper and coach. Valor Christian students served as assistant coaches during the game, and Valor Christian cheerleaders helped with the Dare to Cheer camp as well.

The game was back-and-forth, and lots of campers got a chance to carry the ball. The white team struck first with a long touchdown run, and closed the scoring as well with an exciting touchdown reception.

That left both teams with three touchdowns apiece as time expired. But in the end, the score didn't matter.

As Brenden said before the game, "I'm going to win no matter what."

"You'll see our campers high-fiving, celebrating and making friends today, but you'll also see maybe a dropped pass or someone who falls down, and their teammates will pick them back up," McCaffrey said. "They'll keep trying. That's one of the wonderful life lessons you learn from playing this game."

Dawkins agreed, noting that kids all over America -- not just those with Down syndrome -- dream of throwing a game-winning pass or making the game-winning interception in a football game.

Saturday gave a group of campers the chance to live out that dream.

"For kids, it's just fun to be able to run around with that rock in your hand and have somebody trying to chase you," Dawkins said. "It's like tag, a little bit. For these kids, it's awesome to let people see that, 'We can have a good time, we can run around and we're also athletic to be able to do these things.'"

Del Rio, like Dawkins, said he didn't think twice when McCaffrey asked him to help out with the camp.

"It's not about any one person, it's about giving of yourself to something greater than yourself," he said. "That's what being a part of this is all about."

Global Down Syndrome Foundation Executive Director Michelle Sie Whitten said the local support for the event has been overwhelming, including Dawkins and Del Rio's coaching.

Whitten stood next to Brenden, who said Dawkins was "the reason why" he attended the camp. She said the camp, which is about education and advocacy programs for better medical care and research for people with Down syndrome, means a lot to the campers.

"I think the takeaway of our camps is to really focus on our kids' ability versus disability," Whitten said. "Really advocate for them. A lot of people don't know that Down syndrome is the least-funded genetic condition bar none in our country. That's got to change. If we're not out there educating the community about it, we're not going to change it. Of course, our kids are beautiful and brilliant."

"That's what I am," Brenden smiled.

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