Players from the YMCA's Challenger Flag Football League made an appearance at Chiefs training camp on Tuesday. Despite the scattered rainstorms and surprisingly chilly winds, a group of youth representing the team enjoyed watching a fast-paced practice, receiving autographs from their favorite players and learning a little more about the game they love.
According to the Greater Kansas City YMCA website, Challenger is a program for children and young adults with special needs or disabilities, and helps to encourage physical fitness, personal growth, fun and friendships through participation in healthy activities.
"The YMCA Challenger Program is for kids age 3 to 30-something, and we play sports and activities all over the Metro pretty much four nights a week," said Raegan Schurr, the adaptive program director. "We have families and kids that we serve all over, and friends as well. We'll play soccer then baseball, flag football, we bowl twice a year, we also play court sports and, of course, basketball."
The organized flag football league is dedicated to helping the participants learn the game, stay active and be part of a team, all while making memories on the field and off.
Last year, Vincent Houseman and Brock Opfer participated in the helmet walk where they got to meet Alex Smith and Dontari Poe.
This year, it was Caleb Roach's turn.
Caleb is in his first year with the program, and he was a little worried about "playing hooky" since school only started Monday. But it was worth it to be in the VIP section during Chiefs training camp.
He waited on the hill and snagged autographs as the players walked by after practice. Almost every player stopped to shake his hand, introduce himself and give an autograph on his trek to the locker room.
When it was Jamaal Charles' turn, he handed Caleb his helmet, signed his football, posed for a picture, then took hold of Caleb's wheelchair and pushed the 9-year-old up the hill to the locker room.
"It meant the world to him," said Ricky Roach, Caleb's father. "I think it shows their heart, how nice some of those players are, and how respectful they can be, honestly. Definitely worth the rain—that's for sure."
Players came out from the locker room to greet him and sign his football, which was almost full from the hill already. He met Tamba Hali and Justin Houston and took advantage of meeting one of the best pass rushing duos in the National Football League by snapping a photo with them.
Caleb is a huge Chiefs fan and is also an Oregon fan. In that sense, it's only fitting that De'Anthony Thomas is his favorite player.
So when Anthony Sherman promised to go grab him, Caleb's eyes lit up. He had even brought his No. 13 jersey for a special signature from Thomas.
"Meeting De'Anthony was way more than I expected," Caleb said. "It felt awesome. Best day of my life."
In addition to filling his football with signatures and having his jersey signed, Caleb also was given a pair of football gloves exactly like those worn by the Chiefs.
"I'm going to put it all in a case and never touch it again," Caleb explained excitedly. "I'll hang my De'Anthony Thomas jersey up."