NFL to bring flag football, funding to Philly for draft festivities

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The NFL isn’t coming to Philadelphia in two weeks just to make young men rich and snarl traffic around the Ben Franklin Parkway.

The league said it wants to help, too.

Along with fanfare on the parkway and high-stakes draft picks, the NFL said it will be coordinating hospital visits, flag football clinics and funding, partnerships with the Special Olympics and hosting special honorees, including the family of an Army lieutenant from Logan who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.

The league, according to a news release, will cut the ribbon on draft week April 25 with Mayor Jim Kenney, former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski and Anna Isaacson, the league’s senior VP of social responsibility at Starr Garden Playground, at 6th and Lombard streets.

“We really make sure we are working directly with the community to leave a legacy,” Isaacson said Thursday. “We focus on youth health and wellness and character.

Afterward, the NFL will host a flag football clinic for Gen. George A. McCall elementary and middle school students a few blocks away. The league is providing an unspecified grant to the city’s school district to expand and equip flag football programs.

“We just see flag football as a way to get kids active and healthy, especially if it’s 60 minutes a day,” Isaacson said. 

Officials with the school district did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday.

The NFL is also bringing a digital “character playbook” to city schools, beginning on April 26 at William Ziegler Elementary School in Oxford Circle. According to the NFL, the program is used in 29 NFL markets and helps students “cultivate and maintain healthy relationships.”

NFL draft prospects will visit Shiners’ Hospital in North Philly on April 26, the league said, and players and “legends” will visit Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on April 27, the day the draft festivities are set to begin on the parkway.

The league says it will also conduct several flag football clinics with schools and youth groups on the parkway as well as host a “play zone” there. High school athletes from the region will take part in a 7-on-7 tournament.

On April 28, athletes from Special Olympics Pennsylvania will be coached by Eagles players when they compete in a Special Olympics Unified Flag Football.

A Make-A-Wish recipient and patient from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital will make draft picks, along with the wife and son of U.S. Army 1st Lt. Demetrius Frison, who was killed by a bomb in 2011 on his first tour of Afghanistan.

Frison, a Lancaster native, grew up a passionate Eagles fan in Logan, said his mother, Louella Frison. But it was a house divided. His father, Paul Frison, was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and his brother, Paul Jr., rooted for the Dallas Cowboys.

“They would all be in this house hollering and screaming when the Eagles played,” Louella Frison said. “He was a big, big Eagles fan.”

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