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Athletes to attend Father’s Day event

It just may be the perfect Father’s Day outing: an afternoon “meet and greet” with three NFL players, two of whom are hometown heroes.

Sunday, the Beaufort County Boys & Girls Club’s Washington unit and the East Carolina University Pirates Club will host Kansas City Chief Terrance Copper, Green Bay Packer C.J. Wilson, and Baltimore Raven Vonta Leach for an event serving up hot dogs and autographs to the community. Copper is a Washington native, Wilson is from Belhaven and Leach is a former ECU Pirate and considered one of the best fullbacks in the NFL.

The three men are in Washington for a succession of events starting with Friday night’s basketball scrimmage between NFL players and the Washington police and fire-rescue-EMS, today’s football camp for local children and Sunday’s Father’s Day cookout.

At the behest of the Pirates Club, Copper and Wilson are making a return appearance at the Boys & Girls Club. Last year, they attended a banquet, but this time around, organizers decided to make the event more accessible for the community.

“It’s not just for members of the Boys & Girls Club. Any of the kids who want to come, come on,” said Mac “Bear” Hodges, one of the event organizers. “And if we run out of hot dogs, we’ll run out to the Piggly Wiggly and get some more.”

The event is designed to give children the opportunity to meet people from the community who have gone on to achieve success in their chosen careers, said Walter Lanham, marketing director for the Boys & Girls Club.

“(Sunday’s event) epitomizes what we do. … We are 100-percent oriented to the kids, serving the kids who need us most,” said Lanham. “Without them, (the Boys & Girls Club) is just a building. It’s just an empty gym.”

Both Lanham and Hodges spoke of Copper’s accessibility at previous events as well as his willingness to provide time, money and effort assisting in similar events.

“Terrance is always great. He’s a really kid-oriented person. He will have a two to three minute conversation with every kid,” said Lanham. “They want to know about football; he asks them about their grades. It’s a really impressive thing to see guys come out who is a role model for the community.”

“Those little kids light up — it’s something to see. You can tell it means the world to them,” said Hodges.

Sunday’s event will highlight the importance of the role of the Boys & Girls Club in the community, according to Lanham, who called the visiting athletes an inspiration for the children.

The Boys & Girls Club, unlike previous years, has closed its doors for the summer break from school. Citing budgetary issues and low turnout during the normal 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. summer hours, Lanham said the closure was geared toward retooling for the school year — orienting new staff, implementing new programs and addressing funding concerns.

Sunday, however, from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m., the Boys & Girls Club will be open for business — the business of tossing a ball with some pro football players.

The Beaufort County Boys & Girls Club’s Washington unit is located at 1089 N. Bridge St. For more information about Sunday’s free event, call 252-975-9311.