Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Photo story: More2Life and the Harlem Jets

Writing and photography by Jenae Hyde

Origin of the Harlem Jets

The More2Life Foundation began its partnership with the Harlem Jets, a Harlem-based non-profit youth sports organization, in 2017, the first year the foundation made a trip to Harlem. The foundation has continued to work with the Harlem Jets’ football program every summer since. 

The Harlem Jets organization was founded by Harlem-native Jamel Wright, who grew up in the apartments adjacent to their current practice field. Initially, the Harlem Jets only offered a football program, but baseball, basketball, cheerleading and wrestling programs were later added.

Wright came up with the idea to start the Harlem Jets about 15 years ago after driving past another program’s football practice with his then 9-year-old son, Jamel Wright Jr., who was interested in playing. Jamel Jr. was not old enough to play at that time but ended up playing the following year. 

Catering for the Kids

Chris Diaz and Brennen Pressley, both Harlem Jets, said one of their favorite parts of the day was having Chick-Fil-A for lunch. Providing Chick-Fil-A for lunch has become a More2Life tradition. BYU wide receiver and key leader within More2Life Micah Simon said one of his favorite More2Life memories is from their first year traveling to Harlem.

Simon said they coordinated with Harlem Jets coaches, but they wanted to leave some things a surprise that first year. They had Chick-Fil-A catered, and as they carried in the boxes, he said the kids became very excited.

He said kids began commenting on how they had never had Chick-Fil-A and would sometimes drive past it and had always wanted to try it. He recalled that the moment had touched his heart and the hearts of other players and More2Life volunteers.

“Nobody really said anything,” Simon said. “We all just kind of looked at each other and were just like, ‘Wow, we have it good. We can just go to Chick-Fil-A whenever we want, but these kids may not have the money or they can’t get there.’ … It was pretty amazing to see how something so small could really make them happy and feel like they’re worth something in life.”

The event concluded with catered Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for everyone in attendance as well as tables full of BYU and More2Life themed T-shirts made by BYU players in the More2Life office before the trip.

BYU football mentorship activities

Players were paired off with kids ranging in age from 5 to 14 years old to rotate through 10 different activity stations meant to facilitate fun and build life skills like teamwork, communication and service. The stations included activities like setting one-word goals, assembling hospital care bags for kids, using tinker toys to try and build the tallest tower, playing dodgeball and more.

BYU wide receiver Micah Simon said the event is something the kids look forward to all year. He said the kids’ excitement to spend the day with the players and the players’ opportunity to spend time with them is the main purpose of the event.

BYU defensive back Troy Warner said the stations combined traditional football skills with important life skills. For instance, at coach Ed Lamb’s station, players participated in speed and space drills while also learning how to properly shake hands.

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