Media Day session kicks off DFRC Blue-Gold football week

NEWARK – Southern Delaware high schools will be well-represented this Saturday, June 23 at the annual DFRC Blue-Gold All-Star Football game at University of Delaware Stadium.

The annual all-star game, put on by the Delaware Foundation for Reaching Citizens with disABILITIES, is in its 63rd year of existence.

According to their website, the DFRC is well-respected Delaware foundation dedicated to raising funds and consciousness in support of programs that enrich the lives of Delawareans with intellectual disABILITIES.

From L-R: Thomas Eisenbrey (Milford), Elle Harden (Lake Forest), Jordan Waters (Milford), David Bowman Jr. (Milford) and coach Shaun Strickland (Milford) during Sunday’s Media Day event (The Chronicle/Ben Heck).

High school seniors from across the state of Delaware – including football players, cheerleaders, ambassadors and marching band members – gather for one final high school football game at UD’s stadium.

Leading up to the game, the senior participants are paired up with members of the Hand-in-Hand program, which serves as the centerpiece for the DFRC organization.

In February, the football players, cheerleaders and ambassadors were paired up with a buddy from the Hand-in-Hand program – a child or young adult between the ages of 4 and 18 years old with an intellectual disABILITY.

“It’s an opportunity for people to sit down and share their story with each other,” DFRC executive director Tony Glenn said. “Everyone benefits. We’re people first – and we recognize that. It’s not like ‘tell me about the disability.’ No one wants to be told what they can’t do, but how do we celebrate what we can do and the goodness of each light? So, in those opportunities, naturally people just come together and give each other their time. That’s all we’re trying to do, is to provide that.”

In the months leading up to this Saturday’s game, the senior participants have been attending events with their buddy, including picnics, bowling outings and dance parties. Many of the senior participants have hung out with their buddies on their own time, outside of the DFRC-sanctioned events, as well.

Football players

Milford High has a trio of football players – David Bowman Jr., Thomas Eisenbrey and Jordan Waters – participating in this year’s game. Elle Harden is representing Lake Forest High. All four players will suit up for the Gold squad.

After being chosen to participate in this year’s game, the Milford trio found out a familiar face was a member of the Hand-in-Hand program: Justin Haggerty. Haggerty is a student at Milford High.

The Gold Squad prepares to pose for a team photo Sunday afternoon. Milford head coach Shaun Strickland will serve as an assistant coach for Gold (The Chronicle/Ben Heck).

Bowman, Eisenbrey and Waters were paired with Justin and the friendship between the Milford students only continued to grow.

“He goes to our school and I had gym class with him last year, so we would see him all the time and had already talked to him and everything,” Bowman said of Justin. “He’s been in the program since he was little. For the past few months we’ve been going over to his house, having dinner and playing outside with him or we’ll go somewhere and get something to eat. It’s been a good time.”

“We would see him every day – especially during gym time, we were always messing around and in the hallways he would come dap us up and everything,” Waters said with a smile.

“It’s been great so far,” Eisenbrey added. “Justin has been a great experience for all of us. He’s real excited for the game on Saturday and so are we.”

For Harden, he and Lake Forest senior ambassador Brooke Glanden were paired with Zach Worthington, who is a local Felton student going into eighth grade.

Over the past few months, in addition to the DFRC-sanctioned Hand-in-Hand events, the group has hung out and gotten to know each other a little more.

“It’s an honor and a blessing to represent Lake Forest. This is a great opportunity and so far it’s been a pretty cool and fun experience. Zach has a lot of character and he’s a great kid,” Harden said of his Hand-in-Hand buddy.

The four football players are excited to suit up one last time and represent their respective high schools in front of a crowd at University of Delaware Stadium Saturday night.

“We’ve got three players from Milford and we have coach Strickland coaching us one last time, we have to make the best out of it,” Bowman said with a laugh. “Everybody is just here to have a good time.”

“It’s going to be my last chance to play with Jordan and David and it’s just going to be a real nice experience for all of us,” said Eisenbrey.

Cheerleaders

The Gold cheerleading squad is made up of 25 girls, including a pair of Lake Forest girls – Shumailah Ahmad-Statts and Kassidy Callaway.

Ambassadors

Senior ambassadors for the Gold squad include Lake Forest’s Brooke Glanden.

Junior ambassadors for the Gold squad include Lake Forest’s Will Parker and Julianna Tyndall.

The game

Kickoff is set for this Saturday, June 23 at 6 p.m. at University of Delaware.

Prior to this weekend’s game, each team will have practice all week and one scrimmage open to the general public. This Wednesday, June 20 the Gold squad will scrimmage at Milford High from 5-7 p.m.

Opening ceremonies for Saturday’s festivities is set to begin around 5 p.m. inside the stadium. Following the ceremonies, and just prior to kick-off, the Hand-in-Hand buddies, football players, cheerleaders and ambassadors will all reunite with each other in the middle of the field.

For more information regarding the DFRC, or this weekend’s football game, check out dfrc.org.

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

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