YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Melanie Costello has served as the Unit Director for Youngstown’s Boys & Girls Club for the past five years and has never seen her community center as packed as it was on Monday.
Costello was blown away by the amount people inside the center, saying it was the most she’s ever seen at once in her time with the Boys & Girls Club, and perhaps the most in-awe she’s ever seen her children.
The foot traffic picked up inside the building as San Francisco 49ers defensive players and specialists visited with the children for a few hours, just one day after a road victory in Cincinnati.
“What surprises me is our kids are normally really out-going, but they are being so calm and kind of shy,” Costello said. “It blows my mind, but I think it’s a great experience for them.”
The 49ers involvement with the B&G Club of Youngstown is directly tied to the team’s ownership, which have strong ties to the region.
“Both the Boys and Girls Club and the Y.M.C.A. and the number of organizations we’re a part of in the Bay Area are all part of the 49ers mission to keep kids safe on track and in school,” 49ers Co-Chairman Dr. John York said after spending time with the kids along with wife Denise and his children. “We’re not in the Bay Area, Youngstown is our home for the week and we wanted to take our Community Mondays to this community, and our home.”
The players, too, jumped at the chance to be a part of the event.
“It’s always good to do things for the kids, who look up to guys like us,” Grant said. “One of my goals in life is to always touch as many people as I can in many different ways. Coming back to Ohio and being able to do this is a true blessing.”
Grant and the 49ers linebackers spent time in the basketball gym playing with the kids, signing autographs and answering their questions. In fact, all of the defensive players and specialists were broken up into groups where they shared the values of the team’s RESPECT campaign, one that stresses respect for schools, families and communities.
The 49ers safeties spent time in the homework center where they helped kids with everything from spelling to poetry.
“I helped a young girl work on a bio poem,” safety Madieu Wiliams said. “It consists of things about who she is in a poetry format. It answers certain questions like her name, where she lives, what are her hobbies, things that she loves and things that she doesn’t like.
“I used to do things like that, a lot of poetry stuff like haikus. That was one my favorite things to do growing up in school.”
Williams couldn’t help but feel like he was back in school. The 6-foot-1, 203-pound safety was in fact sitting in a tiny chair, fit for an elementary school student.
“It does take you back,” the NFL’s 2010 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner said. “It really does.”
Towards the end of the event, the players posed with the students for a group photo, but not before Youngstown B&G Executive Director Tony Perrone made sure to thank the Yorks and the 49ers for their impactful appearance.
“Their involvement in the community, not just in San Francisco, but here in Youngstown, is crucial to the development of young people,” Perrone said to the gathering, before directing a message specifically to the players in attendance.
“I don’t know how much you understand the impact of what you do coming here and what it means to our young people,” Perrone continued.
“This is something they’re going to be talking about for a very long time.”
Click here to watch video of the 49ers offense visiting the Akron Children's Hospital