It was back to the old stomping grounds for Browns cornerback Denzel Ward on Friday night at Nordonia High School’s Boliantz Stadium.
Ward, a Class of 2015 Nordonia High School graduate, hosted a youth camp beneath the same “Friday Night Lights” that he used to play under during his high school days. The camp was hosted on behalf of the Make Them Know Your Name foundation that Ward launched earlier this year.
Ward’s foundation is a mission set out to prevent heart-related deaths. It was launched in honor of his late father, Paul, who died of cardiac arrest at a spin class in 2016 at just 46 years old.
His foundation sponsored the four-hour youth camp where Nordonia High School was flooded with about 400 children from grades 2-8.
Initially, the camp was supposed to be capped off at 200 children. But a glitch in the registration website caused 420 slots to be filled. Ward and his mother, Nicole, who was in attendance throughout the entire duration of the camp, decided to not turn any kids away. They even ordered extra camp shirts for the unexpected children to make sure no camper left empty-handed.
Everything was free at Ward’s camp.
He said it was just apart of doing what was right and giving back to the community. He distributed autographs, high-fives, laughs and encouragement to the youth football players throughout the entire evening.
The former Nordonia Knight says he always sort of envisioned a night like Friday’s camp.
“As a kid that was one of my dreams,” Ward said. “To give back to the community and being back here at my high school and giving back to the kids in my community and other communities has just been fun and exciting.”
The camp was put into action with the help of Nordonia’s head football coach, Jeff Fox, and Raw Talent’s Mark Harris. Fox coached Ward at Nordonia, where they had a state championship run come up just short in 2014.
Friday’s camp was about more than just football. Ward was just happy to see the campers having fun and hopes he can continue to host camps like these every year.
“I used to be one of those little kids that used to go to camps and enjoyed running around and looking up to the celebrities,” Ward said. “So it’s definitely fun to see them out there.”