Amid chants of “DON-NIE! DON-NIE! DON-NIE!” San Diego Chargers linebacker Donnie Edwards spent part of his Halloween with students at National City Middle School. The National City native and member of the Sweet-water District Hall of Fame joined Chargers officials, Sweetwater District Board members and National City Middle School administrators and students for a ceremonial ribbon cutting and presentation of a $40,000 Chargers Champions grant.
Dubbed the ‘Lions’ Den’ in reference to the school’s Kingsmen mascot, the new weight room and fitness center provides students with a fully equipped place to learn about and practice physical fitness. Brand new cardiovascular equipment, free weights and weight machines make this facility a significant addition to the campus. According to physical education teacher Michelle Owens, the center accommodates 50 students per class during school and offers a spin cycle class once school is over.
“Many of these kids know nothing about the sport of cycling,” Owens said. “Through this facility and program we are introducing them to a new activity. The bigger hope is that they will continue an active lifestyle after they leave school.”
The Chargers Champions grant program is part of the team’s effort to reach out to the community to promote increased physical activity and healthy choices. The team will award more than $400,000 in scholarships, grants and computers to deserving San Diego county students and schools this year.
Kimberly Layton, Director of Public Affairs and Corporate and Community Relations, made the official presentation of the grant. “On behalf of the Chargers Community Foundation, I am happy to provide this $40,000 grant for your new weight room,” she said. “Chargers Champions grants go to schools for facilities on campus. We want to make sure you have the programs and resources to learn about healthy lifestyles.”
Sweetwater District Superintendent Dr. Jesus Gandara accepted the replica check and shared it with the students on hand. “We are very grateful to be partnering with a great organization like yours,” he told Chargers representative Layton. “This grant means more support for our students. Thank you to the Chargers.”
Edwards appeared at the podium wearing his number 59 Chargers jersey and a football mask. In addressing the students, Edwards encouraged students to chase their dreams by working hard and taking advantage of the new on-campus facility supported by the grant. “This is great for you guys.” Edwards said. “You have to use it. You can’t just walk by and look at it saying how nice it is to have this on campus. You need to use it. It is here for everyone.”
Following the ribbon cutting with Sweetwater dignitaries, Edwards entered the new facility to talk and work out with students from the school’s flag football and girls’ basketball teams. Victor, an eighth-grade flag football player, welcomed an opportunity to lift weights with the 11-year NFL veteran and popular Charger.
Asked what it means to have Edwards on campus in their fitness center, one student said: “It is great to have him here and to know he is from this area.”