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NFL Scores With Abused Kids

January 21, 1998|PHIL DAVIS

The rough life that thrust 9-year-old Oscar into the care of Orangewood Children's Home was lost in a moment of wonder on Tuesday. He stood in mute awe as 100 or so of his Orangewood roommates and 44 NFL football players serenaded him--and St. Louis Ram wide receiver Eddie Kennison--with a rowdy chorus of "Happy Birthday to You."

"That'll be the envy of every kid in town, I tell ya," said Gene Howard, director of the Orangewood Children's Foundation, a nonprofit center that raises funds for the county shelter.

Oscar and other Orangewood children, ages 5 to 18, got an hour of personal time with the football players, including last year's Super Bowl MVP, Desmond Howard, then joined the athletes for an afternoon of golf at Mile Square Regional Park, part of a pre-Super Bowl event, the Quaker Oats NFL Players Kids Golf Jam.

The children filled the David L. Baker Memorial Golf Center with giddy shrieks and laughs.

"It's cool," said Jennifer, 11, rushing off to get more players to sign her new event T-shirt.

The players got a kick out of it too.

"They always see us in our pads and helmets, but now it's up close and personal," Jacksonville Jaguar wide receiver Keenan McCardell said.

"People have taken advantage of these kids and it's time for someone to give them some love."

Howard said the event also would raise money for the foundation.

While he was eager to see what kind of money the NFL players could bring to the foundation, Howard said the day was mostly about the kids, who are coping with abuse and separation from their families.

"This helps build their spirit and build their hope," Howard said.

"This will be a day to remember."

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