This past June, the San Francisco 49ers partnered with Valley Christian High School and the Mariucci Family Foundation to host 50 athletes at the seventh annual "Football Camp for the Stars" at Valley Christian High School in San Jose. Fifty athletes with Down syndrome and Valley Christian's varsity football squad teamed up to put on an intense showdown for the whole community to watch. The first of this two day event consisted of non-contact football drills, preparing the athletes for an adrenaline-driven scrimmage the following day.
"It feels like all of those small towns in America where everybody pulls together around a high school football team" expressed 49ers defensive line Coach Jim Tomsula, "That's what it is like here, and there is nothing better in my opinion."
Kicking off the morning with the essential food and fuel any all-star needs, the athletes were ready for action. The drills to follow included tackling, passing, receiving, and running back exercises. 49ers guard Alex Boone joined in on the fun and provided participants not only with tips on technique, but with words of encouragement and motivation for the game ahead.
"The support from the 49ers is incredible," said long-time camp supporter and former 49ers coach Steve Mariucci, "With them and all those involved this is my favorite thing to do in the summer."
One of the camp's veterans, Andrew Watson, continued to express leadership among his peers as he has volunteered with Valley Christian Football for over 15 years. Football Camp for the Stars was created by Valley Christian High School's head varsity football coach Mike Machado with the incentive of providing Andrew, who also has Down syndrome, and others with Down syndrome the opportunity to showcase their talents on the field. The camp has since exceeded its capacity and continues to reach athletes across the country through its California event as well as at a second camp in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
"This Camp for the Stars is an amazing event," said Tomsula, "We have a bunch of incredible athletes here, they do a great job and their teamwork is truly fantastic."
In recognition of these athletes winning this award, the 49ers Foundation is proud to present the "Football Camp for the Stars" with a $500 grant. All of the athletes will receive a 49ers Youth Football t-shirt, two tickets to a 49ers home game, as well as recognition on the field and on 49ers.com. At the end of the season, all participants will be invited to the 49ers Training Facility where each will be awarded a trophy recognizing their achievement.