Ward heads back to school

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By Teresa Varley
Steelers.com

Going to school on Tuesday was a thrill for Freedom Area Middle School eighth-grader David Grove, and it had nothing to do with reading, writing or arithmetic.

Grove was a winner of the "NFL's Take a Player to School" program presented by JCPenney Afterschool Fund and his prize – taking wide receiver Hines Ward to school with him.

Ward showed up at Grove's home in the morning, greeting the 13-year old and his family. After a quick tour of the house, Ward signed autographs and posed for pictures, and then it was off to school in style in a waiting limo.

"Never in my wildest dreams would I have dreamed about and having an NFL player get a chance to come to school," said Ward. "For David to be the winner, for the whole school I hope is something they will cherish for the rest of their lives."

The first stop at school was the principal's office, and it wasn't for detention but instead to greet the school administrators and get prepared for an assembly with all of the students. Ward addressed the kids, getting them fired up from the get-go before stressing the importance of getting 60 minutes of physical activity a day as a part of the NFL's PLAY 60 campaign geared at youth.

"Now kids are all in to PlayStation and what not and I really just try to stress fitness," said Ward.

Ward also visited Grove's class and took part in a physical education class with them, working them out for 60 minutes. Ward tossed passes to the kids, caught them and even tried to avoid a few thrown at him during dodge ball.

"They were trying to bean me pretty hard," said Ward. "My job is to catch the ball, not run away from it."

Ward also challenged them in the final activity, which was catching touchdown passes and then performing a touchdown dance that was worthy of him imitating if he scores against the Broncos.

"He is a cool guy," said Grove. "Today was fun to exercise and do all of this. It makes me want to do more stuff like this at home."

The NFL and JCPenney made a donation to Freedom Area Middle School to support their physical fitness programs. The NFL will donate equipment used during the day's activities, and Wilson will also donate equipment to the school.

**About the JCPenney Afterschool Fund: The JCPenney Afterschool Fund is a charitable organization committed to providing children in need with access to life-enriching afterschool programs that inspire children to be smart, strong and socially responsible.

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Since 1999, JCPenney and the JCPenney Afterschool Fund have contributed more than $80 million to support afterschool programs nationwide. In 2008, the Afterschool Fund's grants provided more than 23,000 children with access to life-enriching afterschool programs.

To view a full photo gallery by Mike Fabus, click on Take A Player to School and go to Off the Field.

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