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Wilson's Football/Cheer Camp teaching football, life lessons

By James D. Horne jhorne@paducahsun.com

One thing George Wilson hopes kids, and particularly those from his hometown of Paducah, get as they attend the George Wilson Football/Cheer Camp is the opportunity to be exposed to other kids and people from outside the area.

That impact is so great though that even those who aren't from the area so wanted to be a part of the seventh annual event held Saturday at Paducah Tilghman High School that two of the campers came from Louisville and Bowling Green just to learn from the Paducah native and Tennessee Titans safety and the coaches/instructors he gathered to conduct the camp.

"I came here because I wanted to learn some new techniques, because I'm going to another camp next week," said Zack Goodwin, 10, who attends Rockfield Elementary in Bowling Green. "It was a fun experience because they treated us nicely and let us come in and be here."

Zyonn Holland, 10, who attends Lincoln Elementary in Louisville and has family in Paducah, said "It takes two hours or longer to get here. But it was worth it to come out here and have fun."

The campers were put through various speed, agility, technique, team-building skills and games during the 4 1/2 hour camp that started at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

After the campers' drills, they were treated to a performance by the camp cheerleaders, which included D'Aysha Burns. The 9-year-old, who attends McNabb Elementary, is thinking about becoming a cheerleader and said she liked the fact she could come to a camp like Wilson's in Paducah.

"I had a lot of fun out here today," she said. "The funnest part was doing the cheer at the end."

The camp instructors also had a good time helping the nearly 300 attendees learn new football and cheer skills. All were provided with a breakfast and a camp-ending lunch.

"This is a big help to the community and helps us get involved with our community," said Paducah Tilghman senior and cheerleader Lyndsey Kendall. "It's a Saturday and we're trying to help kids build their skills. We hope that some of these girls one day can be on our team."

And while the day was about learning new football and cheering skills, there was an underlying factor about the camp that both Goodwin and Holland readily noticed and enjoyed: the life skills they were taught.

"I learned to stay healthy and eat lots of fruit," Holland said.

Said Goodwin: "He told us to follow our dreams and never go backwards. Like during one of the drills, we were told to never put our foot back, because you never want to go back in life. You want to go forward, never back."

All those and more are the reasons Wilson, who also hosted his Seventh Annual Sports Fest Charity Bowling Event at Cardinal Lanes, tries to give back in any way he can.

"I just try to have a family vibe, a family-friendly environment," he said. "A lot of my volunteers are family members and people around the community who have impacted my life and local businesses who have come out and support us with food.

"We've gone from just providing water to providing them with a balanced breakfast and lunch as well.

"I wouldn't be able to do this without the support of the Paducah community. I'm just the face of this. But what makes my programs go are the people. Without them, my organization would be nothing. I'm just appreciative that people enjoy the events we do because I want to do what I can to shed a positive light on my community. I want this generation to pursue their goals and dreams like I was mine."

Call James D. Horne, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8661 or follow on Twitter @psunsports.

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