Packers turned in an offseason full of good works

The Fourth of July weekend traditionally marks the halfway point for summer vacations. For NFL players, it means the close of the off-season is near and training camp is right around the corner.

We "civilians" still have time to get around to our summer to-do lists. This past off-season, many Packer players accomplished more than we could hope to, including a slew of charity and community events. Here's a look at just some of the good works contributed by team members while waiting for the 2005 season to roll around.

*About a half-dozen Packers, including RB Najeh Davenport, FB Vonta Leach, C Grey Ruegamer, TE Ben Steel and defensive ends Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Aaron Kampman joined Green Bay executive VP/COO John Jones and GM Ted Thompson to help out with the second annual 'Jerry Parins Cruise for Cancer' motorcycle ride. The event raises money for various cancer-related organizations.

*The Edgar Bennett Celebrity Bowl-a-Thon drew a slew of players to Green Bay's Riviera Lanes last month to support the Angel Fund for Children with Cancer, Inc. Bennett, a former running back and now running backs coach, invited current Packers to join him in the event which he started in 2003. Helping raise money for the cause this year were Donald Driver, Robert Ferguson, Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport, Rob Davis, Grady Jackson, Tony Fisher and Joey Thomas.

*The team welcomed more than 800 cancer survivors for a day at Lambeau Field. The event featured Packers President and CEO Bob Harlan, who was diagnosed with melanoma two years ago. Harlan shared the story of his successful treatment with the guests, then invited them to tailgate in the Lambeau Field concourse and visit the Packer Hall of Fame.

* The sixth annual Brett Favre Celebrity Softball game not only entertained a record 8,505 fans last month, it also raised between $100,000 to $150,000 for the Brett Favre Fourward Foundation, which provides aid to disadvantaged children in Wisconsin and Mississippi.

Favre came to Wisconsin for the event despite being excused from the team minicamp that week. His offense, including top draft pick Aaron Rodgers, downed the Packer defense on the diamond 22-5.

*Also in June, several members of the Packers organization took part in the Brown County Children's Charity Golf Classic. All proceeds from the event are donated to intervention groups involving alcohol and drug abuse among youth.

*Events weren't limited to the Green Bay Area. The Packers' generosity reached across the US to Las Vegas, where Ahman Green and several teammates joined with other NFL players and celebrities to raise more than $150,000 for Easter Seals. Green has been heavily involved in planning this first-time event. He gathered more than 100 participants for the celebrity golf shootout. Those taking to the Las Vegas links for charity included Nick Barnett, Kevin Barry, Brad Bedell, Brennan Curtin, Donald Driver, William Henderson, Grey Ruegamer, Mark Tauscher and Mike Wahle.

The event was so successful that it is already slated for next year - May 19, 2006.

Back in Wisconsin, a long-running golf event continued its contribution to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Wisconsin. The Green Bay Packers 65 Roses Sports Club hosted the Mike Sherman Celebrity Golf Open on May 23. Featured guests included Sherman, several assistant coaches, players and staff. In its 17 years, the tournament has raised more than $450,000 to help fight CF.

*Two dozen members of the Packer organization went out into the community to participate in "Rebuilding Together," which repairs area homes for homeowners in need. This year's improvements included installation of a new roof, front porch with handicapped access and fresh exterior paint for a Green Bay homeowner. In all, nine local homes were overhauled free of charge this spring. The team has participated in the project, formerly named "Christmas in May," since 1996.

*Less than one month into the offseason, several players could be found reading to children in area elementary schools as part of "Read Across America" Day. Held in conjunction with the birthday of children's author Dr. Seuss (March 2), the national event encourages a love of reading in young students. This year DT James Lee visited Brillion (Wis.) Elementary School, performing the part of the fish in the Seuss classic "The Cat in the Hat" for each of six grade levels. Lee followed his half-dozen "recitals" with a question and answer session and signed autographs for the children of Brillion, where he has participated in the Read Across America program for the past two years.

Just as the offseason must fly by for the Packers, so does the summer for everyone who looks forward to these months of sunny days and recreational activities. Follow the Packers' lead and do something positive with your own personal "off-season."


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