The Browns welcomed Adaptive Sports Ohio veterans and athletes to a wheelchair flag football clinic on Tuesday at the Cleveland Heights Community Center.
Browns players Sione Takitaki, Tommy Togiai and Chase Winovich joined the athletes for a series of drills built to prepare them for a scrum at the end of the clinic. Players also had a Q&A session with the athletes to answer everything they had about their football travels and what life is like in the NFL.
The event built on the Browns’ efforts to support veterans during the “Salute to Service” initiative throughout the month of November.
“Especially with my military-born grandfather — as well as his siblings — it’s an honor for me to know these people,” Togiai said. “It’s a big deal for me to be able to go back and talk to people and get to know them a little bit.”
The drills included zipping through the courses in wheelchairs and catching passes from players, as well as practicing seated throws and getting comfortable with chair maneuvers.
Veterans from various military branches joined the attendees – some of whom were also veterans – who were already part of the Adaptive Football League. Players were recruited to participate through Adaptive Sports Ohio and Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center.
Jonathon Stone, who served in the Marine Corps, was one of the attendees who will never forget the experience of practicing the game with Browns players watching and watching with a smile.
“It means a lot that they showed up,” Stone said. “It means even more that they were engaged to us and were talking to us. They were interested in our lives and it’s really cool that they were able to do that for us. We really appreciate that.”
Adaptive Sports Ohio is connected to the NFL: The USA Wheelchair Football League is a program of Move United, a non-profit organization that uses the power of sports to promote what is possible for people with disabilities. The USAWFL is made possible in part by an NFL/Bob Woodruff Foundation “Health to Service” partnership to provide a “Healthy Lifestyles and Community Building” grant.
The event was also done in partnership with CrossCountry Mortgage, which will be involved in various military appreciation moments throughout the month and is the presenting partner of the Browns’ “Salute to Service” game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Nov. 27.
“We recognize that the American dream of home ownership would not be possible without selfless service for members of the military,” said Alicia Gauer, SVP of corporate communications at the CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. “We’re so proud to go out and support events like this. This really gives veterans a chance to be active members of the community and we’re proud to support that.”