Every year, two former football players give back to their community the way they know best — through sports.
Former Philadelphia Eagles offensive guard Max Jean-Gilles and Jemmy Jasmin, a former wide receiver for Central Michigan University, hosted their annual HangOut Day youth football and cheerleading camp July 15 at Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Center, 3000 NW 199th St., Miami Gardens.
Now in its seventh year, HangOut Day was started not only to offer physical conditioning for children, but also outreach for the community the players grew up in.
“I was thinking back to when I was growing up, I was active in the community doing craziness,” Jasmin said. “But I grew up — I matured and I realized if I put the same energy into something positive, it would make a positive impact in our community.”
As young men, Jean-Gilles and Jasmin played football together at North Miami Beach Senior High School and lived in the surrounding area. After returning to Miami from Central Michigan, Jasmin applied his vision of community activism into starting a nonprofit organization, Stars of Tomorrow. He then created the blueprint for HangOut Day, but he needed help executing it.
A chance encounter with his old teammate helped Jasmin get the ball rolling on the event.
Jean-Gilles, who played in the NFL for almost a decade, ran into Jasmin during the off-season at a Walgreens store and jumped at the idea of helping his old neighborhood.
“He started telling me that he had an idea to start a community event where it’s not just a football camp, but the whole community comes out and participates,” he said.
HangOut day is a way for neighbors to get to know each other, Jasmin said. There are also free health screenings for adults and food giveaways.
But the main focus of the event is giving children an opportunity to train with the best coaches.
“Instead of parents pulling pennies together to help their children excel at a sport they may be good at, we bring the camp to them for free,” said Jean-Gilles in a written statement. “We have some of the best coaches from across South Florida working with these children.”
Past events have included training and support from former New England Patriot E.J. Biggers, North Miami Beach High coach Jeff Bertani and the Buffalo Bills’ LeSean McCoy.
This year, four cheerleaders, including Olivian Jackson, who is a hurdler for Barton Community College in Great Bend, Kansas, trained about 25 girls in choreography and basic gymnastics.
Angel “Lu” Gutierrez, a coach for 17 years, has volunteered for HangOut Day for the last five years. He currently coaches the North Miami Senior High School Pioneers and the NMB Sundevils.
Gutierrez said he thinks the event is a great opportunity for young players.
“It keeps them motivated, and it also keeps them having a good work ethic,” he said. “We have to make sure these kids are doing something at all times. The moment you give them time to get out of this bubble, then they’re out there somewhere where you don’t know what’s going on.”
This year, Jasmin and Jean-Gilles decided to host the event in Miami Gardens instead of its usual home in North Miami Beach, hoping to impact a set of new faces and amid the rise of gun violence in the city.
Stars of Tomorrow also helps less fortunate children through annual Christmas toy giveaways at Fulford Elementary School and Ronald McDonald House and an annual back-to-school drive.
Jasmin and Jean-Gilles plan to hold a HangOut Day next year in Atlanta, a week or two before next year’s event in Miami on July 21, 2018.
“We just want to get the attention of the community to tell them that it doesn’t take that much to do something,” Jean-Gilles said. “Get up and tell your friends, ‘Let’s feed the homeless.’ Get up and do something. It’s not that hard.”