Thursday, January 20, 2011

Former NFL Vikings Player Robert Smith Helps Children Through Charitable Program

Former NFL Vikings player visits Whitefish, helps Park & Rec

January 19, 2011

by Katy Harris

Former NFL Viking player Robert Smith came to Whitefish on Tuesday to meet a family who worships the football team he once played for, as well as to give a local organization $10,000.

The Fleming family of Whitefish has waited patiently for a few weeks when they found out they won a competition sponsored by the NFL and Proctor & Gamble.

They received a phone call from New York City saying that Smith, a former NFL running back for the Minnesota Vikings, was coming to visit them for a day.

Robert flew in to Whitefish to speak at an assembly that will inspire young children and he brought a gift with him.

The Fleming family said that they are happy to have Smith as their guest, but there's a bigger reason why he came to town than just to congratulate them on the competition.

A local boys and girls organization gets chosen to receive a $10,000 as part of the competition and the Flemings and Smith presented the Whitefish Parks and Recreation department with the $10,000 check.

"$10,000 makes a huge dent in our budget for these recreation programs. We kind of run them on a string and a prayer. It's going to make a huge difference in our ability to offer scholarships," commented Parks and Rec Board President Donnie Clapp.

The money will go toward the after school program for kids in the community as well as for summer programs put on by the department.

Some kids need scholarships to be able to participate in the programs that Whitefish Parks and Rec offers and the money will help kids participate who might not have all the funding.

"When I was little I did a lot of after school programs playing basketball and volleyball. It's just a really neat thing to be able to give $10,000 to something I got to participate in, and I know many kids in our community get to participate in it too, and I know they'll use that $10,000 for a good cause," Mandie Fleming said.

Smith says it's important to teach kids at a young age about staying active and being healthy, something they can learn from participating in programs like the ones offered up by Parks and Rec.

"Honestly it's the greatest thing about becoming an athlete is that people, they respect your opinion and listen to what you have to say. "If a few kids get the message...maybe it gets them on a path that they'll stay on for the rest of their lives. It's an incredible power," Smith concluded.

The money will be deposited into the general fund for Parks and Rec and the Fleming family is already looking forward to next football season so they can cheer on the Vikings.

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