FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The NFL's first PLAY 60 and PLAY 60 intergenerational event was full of surprises for Foxborough senior citizens and elementary school students as New England Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft and the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation spent time giving back to their hometown community at Igo Elementary School on Wednesday, May 28.
Patriots players Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Shane Vereen, Michael Hoomanawanui, Joe Vellano, Duron Harmon and Ryan Allen joined Kraft and Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett for a special day inside the school's gymnasium highlighted by two special announcements during a school-wide assembly to promote the importance of staying active.
The New England Patriots, represented by Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft and current players, participated in the NFL's first intergenerational PLAY 60 and PLAY 60+ school event on Wednesday, May 28, 2014.
Kraft surprised the school with a $60,000 grant for a new PLAY 60 playground - doubling the amount the school was expecting.
"The whole idea of this event is to get all of you thinking about working out every day and being active every day," Kraft told the audience. "The Igo School was awarded the NFL PLAY 60 grant for $30,000, but with this being PLAY 60, $30,000 didn't seem right so we are all honored to tell you that this grant is turning into a $60,000 grant."
The generous gift brought the crowd to their feet with wild applause and left some Foxborough officials speechless.
"There isn't a lot that surprises me, but this surprised me," said Foxborough Town Manager Bill Keegan. "It was really overwhelming and just a great day for our schools and our community."
Igo Elementary School Principal Michael Stanton admitted he was "shocked" by Kraft's announcement.
"The school has been talking for almost nine years about building this playground," Stanton said. "It's been literally two generations of students coming through this school that families have been talking about it and they've been slowly raising money so to be surprised with the $60,000 grant is incredible. The kindness and generosity of Mr. Kraft, the Kraft family and the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation is tremendous. We had expectations about today and Mr. Kraft blew them all away."
Foxborough Superintendent of Schools Debra Spinelli said she was so overwhelmed with emotion that she almost fell off her chair when Kraft made the announcement.
"Tears came to my eyes when Mr. Kraft announced he was doubling the grant because I was so happy," Spinelli said. "We were so excited about the prospect of $30,000 to help out with the playground build because that's a lot of money to a school system. I am so happy for the Igo School because the parents have worked so hard on their own to raise money for this project. To have a community partner like the Kraft organization and Mr. Kraft step forward to invest in our future and our community is really wonderful."
The second announcement came from Kraft shortly after the Foxborough High School Choir performed the popular song "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz.
"Just to prove to you all the kid in us; I couldn't sleep last night so I was looking at tweets and one of the members of the Foxborough High School Choir said, 'If we brown-nose up to Mr. Kraft maybe we can get some of the good audio equipment we want.' This choir was so good that we are going to get them the audio equipment."
The tweet came from Foxborough High School student Ben Howell the day before the assembly and Kraft's spontaneous donation brought the crowd to its feet again.
Howell took to social media shortly after the announcement to share the good news.
Foxborough High School student Caitlin Catland added via Twitter, "Finding out @Patriots are providing our choir with new audio equipment made me so happy and grateful words can't explain."
Stanton called the moments leading up to Kraft's announcement "exciting."
"Mr. Kraft looked over to me for the microphone and said, 'I just want to say something when they are done singing,'" Stanton said. "I said, 'sure' and handed him the microphone. He gave that big surprise and it was a big surprise to all of us. It was great to see all the high school students so excited."
Spinelli was equally excited.
"For our music students to get a surprise like that from Mr. Kraft was icing on the cake," said Spinelli. "It was a great morning here for the Foxborough schools. The Kraft Group has done so many great things for our community, our schools and our young people. This is just another example of how Mr. Kraft comes to the table for the benefit of families in the community. This is an incredible partnership and we are truly grateful."
The NFL's first PLAY 60 and PLAY 60 event integrated Foxborough seniors participating in the Council on Aging's Aging Mastery program with elementary school students to stress the importance of making healthy choices over a lifetime.
"The seniors participating in the Aging Mastery program range in age from 56 to 87 years old and are part of the program because they realize the importance of making healthy choices and exercising regularly throughout their lives," said Vicki Lowe, executive director of Foxborough's Council On Aging. "Mr. Kraft is incredible and I couldn't have asked for a better day. When you watch the seniors and kids together you can see how the seniors pick up on the energy of the kids and they are just having fun. It's like getting an opportunity to be kids again."
Gronkowski spoke to the audience about eating healthy and the importance of being active for 60 minutes a day.
"Today's message is obviously about playing 60 minutes a day," Gronkowski said. "These kids should always be exercising because that's good for them and good for their bodies and their health. If we can get to these kids now then it will be great for them in the future."
Following the assembly, 35 seniors and 35 students participated in an ultimate gym class exercise program led by the players. The exercises included relay races, light weight lifting with dumbbells and jump rope.
"This has been a wonderful event," said 87-year-old Foxborough resident Louise Corcoran. "We have been smiling since we got on the bus."
Corcoran said her favorite exercise was the light weight lifting station led by Vellano and Allen.
"The workouts were fun and I was glad I was able to participate in them," Corcoran said. "All the players were so nice and lovely to be around. It was a great day."
"We had a blast," Gronkowski said. "We couldn't ask for a better morning to wake up to and help these kids. It's great to give back to our hometown community."