By Christine Detz, contributing editor
The images from Moore, Okla., were breathtaking, for all the wrong reasons.
A nearly mile-wide tornado with winds topping out at more than 200 mph ripped through this Oklahoma City suburb in May, leaving behind devastation. Homes were destroyed and schools were toppled within a matter of minutes. But slowly, life is returning to normal in this heartland city.
"They lost facilities and they lost things that were very vital to a program to be run," USA Football Heads Up Football Ambassador and former Philadelphia Eagle Kenny Blair said. "Once we assessed what he needed, we contacted (NFL Foundation) and a few days later shipment after shipment of helmets and shoulder pads was donated to allow these football players to not miss a game or practice."
For NFL Foundation chairman and Dallas Cowboys executive Charlotte Jones Anderson, the donation was an easy decision.
"It was a very poignant afternoon at the NFL Foundation meeting when the tornadoes came through Moore," Jones Anderson said. "I think as we all sat there in awe, we wondered how we could make a difference with what we had."
In the days following the tornado, members of the Oklahoma Elite Football league discovered the organization had lost almost all of the equipment it supplies to more than 700 youth football players between the ages of 6 to 11.
The foundation donated 500 helmets, 500 pairs of should pads and 80 tackling dummies to the league.
"Our children and their families lost so much," said Charles Thompson, who is the Oklahoma Elite Youth Football League president. "With the donation, we are able to get the children back on the field to play the game they love.
The donation was feted at a football camp Monday evening as players had the opportunity to practice Heads Up Football safe-tackling techniques while breaking in their new equipment. It was one of many events nationwide celebrating USA Football month.
Jones Anderson said she was able to act on a lesson she learned from her dad, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
"My father has always said that the purpose of football for us at the National Football League level is to provide a respite for fans who want a break from your day and to be entertained by your favorite team," Jones Anderson said. "Being here today, football means a lot more than that.
"It's about being part of a resilient community to really be able to provide these kids with some hope for the future and leadership and teamwork skills and definitely some safe football skills."