The New York Giants were pleased to celebrate the NFL's Play 60 initiative through their expansion efforts in Harlem, NY. Play 60 is the league's national youth health and wellness campaign with the American Heart Association. The initiative encourages children of all ages to enjoy active play for 60 minutes each day. Quarterback Daniel Jones, safety Julian Love and inside linebacker Tae Crowder visited PS 175 in Harlem as the program's inaugural event.
The Harlem Giants program reflects the success of its predecessor – the Far Rockaway Giants (Queens). The New York Giants joined forces with the New York City (NYC) Police Foundation, NYPD and NYC Department of Education in 2020 to bring mentorship to young boys in the Far Rockaway community. Giants players fostered relationships through weekly Zoom calls and various live events such as pizza parties, video game nights and football clinics. Far Rockaway programming sparked measurable change, increasing school attendance from 60 percent to 95 percent. Fellow Giants teammates witnessed the success in Far Rockaway and expressed their desire to expand the partnership into Manhattan, specifically Harlem.
Lieutenant Lenora Moody, a 32-year NYPD veteran, was integral in the program's development. She spoke about the process of bringing community and police together. Moody connected with the LAPD to learn about their community enrichment program and brought the concept back to the East Coast. She saw an opportunity to use mentorship, education and physical activity to benefit at-risk youth in Far Rockaway, and the impact now extends to a second borough.
"First of all, kids love to be engaged," Moody said. "They love to do things after school, and to have this concept is a great thing. They identify with the players. It's awesome." Moody credited Daniel Jones with identifying need and advocating for Harlem in particular when expansion rhetoric began.
Jones offered insight into his motivations: He grew up a multi-sport athlete and acknowledges how instrumental those athletic experiences were.
"There was a group of us that kind of got together," Jones said. "You think about what playing sports did for us as kids. That's where you build a lot of relationships. You learn lessons – the important things in life."
The New York Giants were pleased to celebrate the NFL's Play 60 initiative through their expansion efforts in Harlem, NY.
Jones and his teammates rotated through six stations along with over 100 kids from Harlem public schools while visiting PS 175. Each station, led by an NYPD officer, focused on different skills across football, baseball, basketball and soccer. Jones admitted that he enjoyed reliving his childhood with the layup drills.
Sergeant Charles Brown expressed optimism for the Harlem iteration of the program during the Play 60 event at PS 175. As a veteran member of the NYPD's Neighborhood Coordination School Initiative (NCSI) in Far Rockaway, Brown concurred that partnership with the Giants in Harlem could yield similar results.
"I'm envious of it," Brown joked as he watched the children connect with Jones, Love and Crowder. Those interactions launch relationships that have far-reaching impacts, and to see players giving back to their community, Brown said his team "couldn't ask for a better thing."
From the Giants' perspective, their participation is just as fulfilling. Julian Love noted a more personal connection as he drew parallels between Harlem and his native city of Chicago. When asked why it's important to use his platform to support Harlem youth, Love shared, "It's a good experience. Both sides can win – the players on our side and the kids. So, it's been great all around."
Tara Belinsky, the Giants' Community & Youth Football Manager, spoke candidly about the purpose and impact of Harlem Giants: "Being able to see (the children) develop as a person is huge, especially when it comes to the classroom. This is the number one thing that this program is about: making sure the children get the education that they deserve so they have a bright future ahead of them."
Belinsky also underscored the importance of repeated interactions. The Giants' established rapport with the NYC Police Foundation, the NYPD and Department of Education enabled them to galvanize community members for their primary beneficiary – Harlem youth.
"Making sure they have different avenues when it comes to their life long-term is what we want to be a part of," Belinsky said. "It's about making sure that we're supporting them and for them to know that we're here as a resource for them."