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2/22/2014:  Breno Giacomini – Founder AFWB, Seattle Seahawks

From Super Bowl to Super Brazilian Homecoming…what a trip it has been.

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This year’s AFWB Camp in Brazil brought our non-profit to a new level.   We had the largest group of NFL players attend, the presence of ESPN covering the event, an amazing humanitarian experience at an orphanage, and campers that were eager to learn American Football.

So many great memories; however here were a few that jumped out at me:

  • Visiting Cruzada de Menor Orphanage where we had the opportunity to partner with Bella Tunno and Samaritan’s Feet and put new shoes on over 176 children.   This was an amazing experience, as many of the NFL players did not speak Portuguese; however you realize words aren’t needed to bring smiles to a child’s face.  The children felt blessed that someone was there caring for them, giving them hugs, and teaching them “Fist Pounds”.

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  • Holding a free two-day American Football camp for over 300 Brazilian kids.   This was an amazing turnout considering American Football was really introduced on the beaches about 10 years ago and now has over 5,000 playing in leagues on a consistent basis.  You can tell the people of Brazil really play the sport for the love the game.  They worked hard all week and I am hoping they are able to take a lot of the fundamentals we taught back to their teams to help them grow the sport.

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  • Being welcomed by the US Consul General, John Creamer.  It was a great night and I think Marshawn Lynch single handling turned Mr. Creamer into an American Football fan.

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  • Climbing the steps to Christ the Redeemer.  The night was almost magical with the clouds rolling across the statue and having it disappear and re-appear right in front of our eyes.

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  • Learning the ins / outs of Carnaval and even had an opportunity to shake our booties with a Carnaval Band and Samba group.

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  • Attending a Flamengo football match at the home of this year’s World Cup finals.

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  • Chilling out on the beaches of Brazil.  I loved the beaches…from playing beach volleyball…to body surfing on some big waves…to being able to buy about any type of food you could image…it was an amazing sight to see.

While all the Brazilian people we met were amazing there were a few people and companies that went above and beyond during our trip:

  • Daniel Condessa – Direto de Assuntos Internacionais – CBFA  – was our tour guide all week.  He was there day and night making sure we had everything setup and did not run into any problems.  Daniel’s vision for American Football was instrumental in bringing us to Brazil.   Without Daniel I know this trip would not have been a success.   Thank you Daniel!!
  • Esporte Interativo – they sponsored a few great trips for us and were there catching every moment for an upcoming segment on our Brazilian visit.   We really enjoyed having them along to capture the journey.  I cannot wait to see the segments they air about our trip.
  • Copa Airlines – stepped up big and made sure we were able to get everyone safely to and from Brazil.  I really appreciated the partnership with them especially on the long flight to Brazil.
  • Botafogo – their facility was an ideal location for hosting our camp.  I really appreciate the staff that made us feel like we were part of the “Botafogo Family”.

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Finally, all this could not have been made possible without the support of my NFL / CFL / U of L brothers.  They all sacrificed family, training, and vacation time to come and help spread the word about American Football to Brazil.   To that I am forever grateful.  Feel free to Tweet the players a thank you and share with them any of your favorite moments.  I know they would love to hear from their new Brazilian fans.

Carolina Panthers:

  • DeAngelo Williams @DeAngeloRB

Cleveland Browns:

  • Alex Mack – @alexmack55
  • Gary Barnidge – @garybarnidge
  • Jordan Cameron – @jordancameron
  • Johnson Bademosi – @badaboom_24
  • Barkevious Mingo – @keke_mingo

Hamilton Tiger Cats:

  • Brian Brohm – @BrianBrohm

Seattle Seahawks:

  • Breno Giacomini – @68breno
  • Marshawn Lynch – @moneylynch
  • Golden Tate – @showtimetate
  • Russell Okung – @bdr76
  • Cooper Helfret – @cooperhelfret

Tennessee Titans & Brazilian Native:

  • Maikon Bonani – @Bonani28

University of Louisville Football:

  • Scott Kuhn – @srkuhn01

With that our trip to Brazil concludes.   Thank you to all that made my homecoming so special!

With that it is off to offseason training and looking forward to our two United States camps in my hometown of Malden, MA and Gary Barnidge’s town of Middleburg, FL.

Brazil thanks for all the support and I cannot wait to watch American Football grow in the country.

Breno

2/17/2014: By Russell Okung – Tackle, Seattle Seahawks

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February has been one of the best months of my life. Won the Super Bowl…..had over 700,000 people show up for our Seattle celebration…and now this trip to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil where we helped coach a great group over two days and now are seeing the sites of Rio De Janeiro.

There were so many great things experienced this week; however two of my fondest memories were visiting:
1. An orphanage where we had an opportunity to talk, laugh, give high fives, and give a pair of shoes to an amazing group of kids
2. Christ the Redeemer. That statue was powerful.

At the orphanage we partnered with Samaritan’s Feet – an international organization that uses shoes to help spread hope and desire to kids across the world. The process is pretty simple. You sit down with a bucket of water and they bring the children up to you and you wash their feet, give them a pair of socks, and then help them put on their new pair of shoes.

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When I first heard the idea I was a little hesitant because I am not a big fan of touching feet; however once the kids arrived it was an entirely different story. For many of these children they are not told how much they are loved and just the act of washing their feet showed them that people cared. I cannot tell you how many kids were impacted by just this simple act and by the end of the process both of us were smiling, giving high fives, and in many cases ending with a big hug. It was a very humbling process. Also, it reminded me of how lucky I am. These kids did not choose their circumstances and it could have very well been anyone of us if we were born into these situations. My very last foot washing was a little boy that looked a lot like me and it really hit home what a blessed life I have.

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This afternoon we had the opportunity to visit Sugarloaf and Christ the Redeemer. Sugarloaf had amazing views; however Christ the Redeemer was something very spiritual for me. When you were up by the statue it was like you were at peace and I was able to reflect on the week and my life. With the clouds rolling across the statue it almost looked like you were actually standing right before the gates of heaven. Wow…is all I can say. Here are a few pictures:

RussellwithChristtheRedeemer

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Tomorrow we are off to Samba lessons. Bets are on that Golden Tate, Marshawn Lynch, and Deangelo Williams will have all the dance moves; however Alex Mack, Breno Giacomini and I are ready to show them that lineman can “Shake and Groove” too

Thanks for reading,

Russell

2/16/2014: By Golden Tate – Wide Receiver, Seattle Seahawks

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The camp has come to a conclusion and I really left with a great appreciation for the Brazilian culture as well as their work ethic.

After meeting the kids yesterday today we focused on technique. The kids have great talent; however have to learn a lot of football skills we learn in the United States at an early age. For example, how to properly tackle and running routes. Thus, we broke down into several stations and concentrated on learning the basic so they could expand these key skills after we left.

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Marshawn Lynch again stole part of the show when he suited up today to practice with kids. As he said “how often will you be able to suit up in Brazil?”. I love Marshawn’s perspective on life and his skill with getting the kids fired up. He really loves to experience life and it has been shown by his interaction with the children at camp. By the end he had them all in “Beast Mode”.

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We had a special visitor to camp today – John Creamer, U.S. Consul General in Rio de Janeiro. Earlier this week we had the opportunity to meet him at his house; however it was great to get him on the gridiron today.

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Tonight we are off to a special party thrown by the Brazilian’s that helped organize our camp here. We are really excited about connecting with many of the fans outside of the football field.

What a great experience this has been.

Golden

2/15/2014: By Jordan Cameron – All-Pro Tight End, Cleveland Browns

JordanCameronandCampers First day of camp and was it amazing! The kids of Brazil are very willing to learn and a lot them wanted to get better and that is the way the sport will evolve. The fans that came to watch were very passionate too. There was one Brazilian – Seattle Seahawks fan – that tattooed “12” into his calves in support of the ’12th Man’. SeattleSeahawksfan Also, one Carolina Panther fan had Steve Smith’s picture tattooed into his leg. Steve Smith The day was broken into three sessions. The first session was for kids 12 and under, the second session was under 18, and the final session over 18. The kids in the first session had energy; however they were just learning English so it made the teaching a little difficult. We had local Brazilian Football Coaches help us with translation so that made it easier. The second and third sessions the players could speak English so it made the sessions great. The kids were asking questions and were teaching them a lot of the fundamentals. You could really see the improvement in their skills by the end of the session. Jordanandcamper One the camp’s highlights was the arrival of Marshawn Lynch. It is unbelievable how much the people of Brazilian love him. Marshawn brought a lot of energy and intensity…..he was bringing the heat and went “BEAST” mode on a few of kids….evidence by this video…. http://youtu.be/A8M37XPE-v0 Highlight of the day was our camper that had a hearing impairment and inspired us all. He worked his tail off and won his team the “TITLE” for the day with the quickest star drill time and was carried off the field by his teammates. CamperonShoulders DeangeloWilliamsandCamper Finally, I wanted to make sure I mentioned the great facilities that the Brazilian Soccer team – Botafogo – provided. Botafogo is one of the leading clubs in Brazil and gave us one of these great jerseys with our names on them: DSC_0336 Looking forward to Day 2 of the camp tomorrow, Jordan

2/14/2014: By Alex Mack – All-Pro Center, Cleveland Browns

AlexPhoto What an amazing time in Rio so far! Today we woke up early after recovering from a serious food coma from last nights all-you-can-eat Brazilian Steak house dinner.  Dinner was fantastic and the staff was friendly. Even if it meant last night “winning” the opportunity to pay for the bill with Gary Barnidge.  Not sure it was much of win….however it was a great opportunity to catch up with current teammates plus others around the league. MackandBarnidgeCheck After hearing that there are American Football Players around all the Brazilians ask about is if there are any Seattle Seahawks around. None of them are shy about adding Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks when they introduce themselves. Can’t say I wouldn’t do the same. This morning was spent visiting a local orphanage in Rio De Janiero where we teamed up with Samaritan’s Feet to give shoes to kids in need. It was an enlightening experience.  Kids were brought in and we were tasked with washing their feet, giving them socks and finding some shoes that fit. It was humbling to serve these children and rewarding to see the smiles on their face. Language was a barrier and some kids were shy but everyone was happy and energetic about the whole experience. DSC_0170 The event started at a frenzy as everyone was getting into the order of operations and finding the correct shoe size proved difficult with three separate shoe size labeling systems and kids who are unsure of what size shoe they wear. Things calmed down and we got to rotate into different jobs all morning. Going outside and taking pictures and saying hello to some very high-energy kids was a fun break. An impromptu mini soccer game broke out and the kids were much better than any NFL guy who tried to compete. A big thank you to Kevin Warren from Samaritan’s Feet and everyone who helped out and let us have such a moving experience. The people volunteering at the Orphanage were great with our total lack of Portuguese and my stumbling thru Spanish (its similar to Portuguese but still pretty far off). Upon leaving everyone had a lot of fun, and walked away with large smiles. AlexMackShoes After a quick break we were ushered into the media room to talk with local media. There was a lot of interest from the Brazilian media, which I really enjoyed. I love the sport of football and was able to talk passionately about how I feel football helps kids in life. It’s exciting to help spread the game and allow other kids around the world to play a game that means so much to me. Like I said during the conference, I played Soccer as a kid and it wasn’t for me, I didn’t like it too much and I am not quite built for it, however football has given me a path to a college education and now a professional career. The goal of our time here in Brazil is to spread American Football and allow others around the world to enjoy the benefits of playing a game. I felt like talking to the media here in Brazil was a direct way to spread the game and help other kids have the opportunities that I had growing up. I am looking forward to the actual camp tomorrow so I can interact with more children and see them have fun running around. Happy Valentine’s Day, Alex

2/13/2014:     By Deangelo Williams – Running Back, Carolina Panthers

Wow Brazil…is hot….90 degrees today but a nice break from the snow in Charlotte.   Did I mention it is summer here too?!?! … just don’t get how it is winter in the US but summer in Brazil.  Guess I should have paid attention more attention in my geography classes in school. Just heard a few amazing facts about Brazil Football:

  • We are the first NFL players to officially visit Brazil.
  • Football started on the beach 10 years ago because grass fields were very limited
  • In 2000 there were about 200 people playing football; however the number has jumped to more than 5,000 playing fully padded football not including beach and flag football
  • One of the largest supporting groups here is the Brazilian Confederation of American Football(CBFA), which is a partner of AFWB, and is recognized by International Federation of American Football.   CBFA gathers national teams to play American Football including men and women’s leagues, U18, Flag Football, and Senior Football teams.

Now off to some of the funny things we experienced during our trip so far. First I found a lot of my new AFWB teammates have some interesting sleeping faces…. SleepingFootballplayers From Left to Right / Top to Bottom: 1.  Gary Barnidge:  not sure if he is mediating or sleeping 2.  Jordan Cameron:  Man this is a good looking guy.  He looks good even when he is sleeping. 3.  Russell Okung:  Not even sure I can comment on that one…but who wears their sunglasses at night? 4.  Breno Giacomini:  Ummh….aren’t you supposed to put the mask over your eyes when you sleep 5.  Barkevious Mingo: Performing his best David Copperfield…hiding the rest of his body. 6.  Golden Tate:  Never caught without his hat on. When we arrived we saw some great sights on the way to our hotel.  Including one of Rio’s largest markets…thought it was a soccer stadium when I saw it; however it is really a bunch of tents where festivals are held and products are sold. Market Next we hit the beach.  My buddy and AFWB Founder – Breno Giacomini – helping us setup camp on the beach.  Love his hospitality.  Oh did I mention he is a Super Bowl champion too… BrenoatBeach Finally my new friend Cooper Helfet picked up the tab for all of us.  What a nice guy too. CooperHelfetwithCheck   Looking forward to making the children smile tomorrow at Pequena Cruzada (www.pequenacruzada.org.br ), one of Rio De Janeiro’s  largest orphanages, and partnering with two of my hometown Charlotte companies:  Samaritan’s Feet to provide each child with a pair of shoes and Bella Tunno giving bibs to the orphanage babies. Until tomorrow when Golden Tate will be sharing our experience at the orphanage. Stay well, Deangelo

2/12/2014:     By Gary Barnidge  – Tight End, Cleveland Browns, Founder AFWB 

No winter storm is going to stop us from changing lives in Brazil….Deangelo Williams and a few other Charlotte staff left yesterday to beat the storm.  Before leaving they took this great picture of Charlotte’s snowfall….kinda of ironic because all my friends in Charlotte tell me I was crazy for going to Cleveland because of the snow… Snow Charlotte And here is the follow up picture as they arrived in Rio this morning.  For some reason I thought Christ the Redeemer Statue would be bigger…..guess I have been watching too many movies… RioChristtheRedeemer Tomorrow we all arrive and we will start posting pictures from the trip.  Off to catch our flight on Copa Airlines (www.copaair.com).  Great airline…however not sure I will ever get used to these red-eye flights.   Can’t wait to share the images of this week with everyone.  Thinking about our friends, families, and fans in the Southeast.  Stay safe!  Cheers, Gary

2/11/2014:  By:  Gary Barnidge – Tight End, Cleveland Browns, Founder AFWB Gary Barnidge Cleveland Browns

You know what is just as awesome as scoring an NFL touchdown?…

  • Launching football camps in Brazil
  • Delivering shoes to orphans
  • Having an opportunity to learn from and give to the children of Brazil

This week we are thrilled to have the opportunity to launch our American Football Without Barriers Camps (AFWB – www.afwbcamp.com ) in Brazil.  I cannot think of a better place to share this program. Brazil is need of a positive outlet like American football with over 20 million children living in poverty. I also cannot think of a better team to serve as role models for the Brazilian children.  Joining me this week are:

My Cleveland Browns teammates:

  • Alex Mack
  • Jordan Cameron
  • Johnson Bademosi
  • Berkevious Mingo

Super Bowl Champions – Seattle Seahawks:

  • Breno Giacomini
  • Marshawn Lynch
  • Golden Tate
  • Russell Okung
  • Sidney Rice
  • Cooper Helfret

Former Teammates:

  • Thomas Keiser (San Diego Chargers)
  • Deangelo Williams (Carolina Panthers)
  • Brian Brohm (CFL – Hamilton Tiger Cats)
  • Scott Kuhn (Louisville Cardinals)

Brazilian Native:

  • Maikon Bonani

As many of you know, I started American Football Without Barriers Camps (AFWB – www.afwbcamp.com )  with two of my friends – Breno Giacomini and Ahmed Awadallah.  We launched the camps in an effort to help spread American football to different corners of the world with a humanitarian focus.

After our visit to China last year we are excited to expand our growth to Brazil.   Here is our line up for the week:

On Thursday, February 13th, we arrive in Rio De Jaineiro via Copa Airlines from Miami.  Shout out to Copa Airlines (www.copaair.com) !  They have been great to work with and helped arrange travel for the majority of our team which has not been an easy task considering we are spread out all across the United States.

On Friday, February 14th, we will be visiting Pequena Cruzada (www.pequenacruzada.org.br ), one of Rio De Janeiro’s  largest orphanages, where we have partnered with Samaritan’s Feet (www.samaritansfeet.org) to provide shoes to the children.  Many of you might recognize Samaritan’s Feet, as they are the charity I help promote when I take off my game-worn cleats and give them to a child from a local Cleveland orphanage.

Gary Barnidge Samaritans Feet Cleveland Browns

Also, our friends at Bella Tunno (www.bellatunno.com) will be helping provide children’s accessories like bibs and burp cloths that we will donate on our orphanage visit.

The following days, we will host a multi-day free football camp for the Brazilian kids.  It will be an exciting time as we get to help the kids with their football skills and provide an autograph session.

This week is not about making touchdowns but about touching hearts.  Follow us as we bring football and philanthropy together in Brazil.   During the week, players will be sharing their experiences from Brazil.  Follow our blog to learn with us.  Be sure to follow us on twitter @afwbcamps and on facebook – https://www.facebook.com/afwb11 for the latest information and pictures.

It’s going to be an awesome week!

Here goes…

Gary.

                 AFWB Camp Goes to Brazil!

Brazil Flier

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