You'd be wrong to think Tim Tebow was the star Sunday at Island Christian School where hundreds of Monroe County schoolchildren turned out. Likewise, you'd be wrong to think Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel or chart-topping recording artists Britt Nicole and for KING & COUNTRY were the stars...
Nope, it was those children, they were the stars, and they shined brighter than the Florida sun.
By 2:00 in the afternoon, hundreds of kids from Key West to the Upper Keys filled the school athletic field, entering through a tunnel and emerging, like NFL players taking the field, to a crowd of well-wishers dressed in referee shirts and offering "high fives." Around the field were bean bag toss, water balloon games and football passing accuracy competition. The scent of grilling hamburgers and hotdogs filled the air. On the far west side of the field, a huge concert stage had been set up, draped with "It's About Change" banners. It's About Change, a local non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of children and adolescents in the Florida Keys, organized and sponsored Sunday's event.
At 2:00pm, It's About Change Chairman Cheryl Meads took the stage and introduced the volunteers who put the event together. Meads then announced IAC's first scholarship recipient, Alexandra Mixon, daughter of Monroe County police Sergeants Eric and Linda Mixon. Alexandra's father is a graduate of Island Christian School. Ms. Mixon received a four-year scholarship to Island Christian School. The award literally left this student speechless, but smiling.
Next, Tim Tebow, Danny Wuerffel and Pastor Tony Hammon took to the stage. Wuerffel and Tebow began firing up the crowd by tossing the first of hundreds of footballs into eager arms. Many of the kids were wearing University of Florida t-shirts and a few Tebow jerseys could be seen in the crowd. Hammon introduced Tebow and Wuerffel to roaring cheers and then began asking them about their education, life and work.
Mr. Tebow told the crowd that he simply wanted a day that would be "uplifting, encouraging and fun." In a back-and forth with Hammon, Tebow focused his comments on what any parent would tell their high-school-aged children: "to set yourself apart, you need to love what you do, be passionate about it and be willing to sacrifice." By setting yourself apart, Tebow said, you could expect to "not wake up wanting to be average."
Tebow peppered his remarks with references to his own faith, but was not "preachy." Tebow spoke of his faith as just one characteristic that helped him achieve his goals. Tebow actually spent far more time focusing on the value of dedication, education and "passion" in pursuit of personal goals.
Mr. Wuerffel next urged the audience to "look past appearances and focus on things on the inside… your heart." Wuerffel asked Tebow to stand up and flex his throwing arm. Wuerffel described the deltoid muscles that were so obvious on Tebow's arm. But, said Wuerffel, beneath the deltoids are four small muscles that you can't see called the rotator cuff. "If these small muscles are injured, you can't even lift your arm, no matter how big the outside deltoid muscles are" said Wuerffel.
Tebow then reminded the crowd that they "can't control how tall you are, but you can control how hard you work toward your goals. So spend your time focusing on the things you can control." Hammon reminded Tebow of a quote from Tebow's own website "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard." Wuerffel, commenting on his past medical issues, said that "you can sometimes learn more in tough times than you can when everything is going smoothly."
Tebow finished up his comments with a reminder that "money gets burned up and people forget your name. Positively impacting those around you is what it truly means to have a life of significance, a life of meaning."
Britt Nicole then took the stage and rocked the swaying, arm-waving crowd with thirty minutes of high-energy musical performance, wrapping up with her hit "Gold." By this time the crowd was hungry and the organizers responded with hot dogs and hamburgers for everyone.
After lunch, Tebow and Wuerffel took to the field, picked teams from the crowd and faced off in a double-overtime game of football. At times, the teams included twenty or thirty players on each side. The game was highlighted by flying flip-flop shoes and a few interceptions. The only penalty was called when Tebow took a cell phone picture with a fan during a play.
After the game, Ms. Meads announced Natalie Sassine, a senior at Island Christian School and Andrew and Amanda Bautista, Freshmen at Coral Shores High School, received $2,500 college scholarships. Meads, Tebow, Wuerffel and Nicole then drew winning numbers and gave away door prizes including a dive watch, beats by dre headphones and an iPad. Critically-acclaimed for KING & COUNTRY took the stage to finish out the day.
From the time they entered the field until the event was over, each kid was treated like a VIP. By the end of the day, hundreds of kids had a chance to say they played football with Tim Tebow and Danny Wuerffel. They got autographs from musicians they hear on the radio, and they all walked away with "swag" in the form of t-shirts, book bags and water bottles. On Sunday, It's About Change made all these children feel like Most Valuable Players.
As the last stragglers were leaving and the road crew was disassembling the stage, Mrs. Meads gestured at the now empty field and said "if we changed just one child's life for the better today, all these weeks of planning and hard work has more than paid off."
By Mike Poller
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