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Patriots donate football cleats to local high schools

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Several area high school football teams will soon be sporting new footwear when their practices start in a few days, thanks to a donation from the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation. On Friday, the team donated 48 pairs of football cleats and turf shoes to be split between the Madison Park and John D. O'Bryant High School football teams when their summer practices commence next week.

The shoes were a part of the Patriots equipment surplus from the 2004 season and all were either brand new or had received minimal use. Madison Park assistant coach Dave Ricciuti came to Gillette Stadium to pick up the donation and was looking forward to distributing them when his players report to practice next week.

" The kids really can't afford these types of shoes," Ricciuti said. "In the past, some of them have had to play in sneakers or have tried to play in work boots, so without these cleats, they would really be playing in unsafe conditions."

Madison Park and John D. O'Bryant were selected for the donation due to their participation in the Play It Smart program, an educational program targeted at kids from inner city environments. The program places an Academic Coach, an athletically oriented counselor, in a local high school to support football players' off-the-field development. The Play It Smart program aims to strengthen the classroom skills of student athletes, to use the game to build leadership qualities in players and to redirect high school football programs that are on the decline and increase participation. The Patriots currently sponsor 11 Play it Smart programs, including six in Massachusetts, two in Rhode Island, two in Maine and one in Vermont.

Patriots Hall of Famer Andre Tippett, who now serves as the team's football development and promotions coordinator, was on hand to deliver the shoes.

"The Play It Smart program is committed to developing student-athletes, and there are many kids who are committed to bettering themselves through the program," Tippett said. "We feel that once the players know you have a sincere investment in them, they'll open themselves up. So, the shoe donation was a way for the Kraft family and the Patriots organization to encourage them to keep up the good work."

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