Raiders’ Penn has big heart for kids

Donald Penn gives a camp participant a giant hug at the 2015 Donald Penn Youth Football Camp. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman
Donald Penn gives a camp participant a giant hug at the 2015 Donald Penn Youth Football Camp.  Photo by Dennis J. Freeman
Donald Penn gives a camp participant a giant hug at the 2015 Donald Penn Youth Football Camp. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

Playa Del Rey, California-Buzz was all over the place. The smell of football was in the air. Relentless activity of energetic youths running around, hitting the sleigh dummy, catching passes and doing all sorts of exercise drills got the juices flowing. Having fun was the main part of 2015 Donald Penn’s Youth Football Camp at St. Bernard High School in Playa Del Rey, California.

It was almost a mandate to let loose and and enjoy the social backdrop for the 300 plus youngsters that came out to learn some football drills and a get an opportunity to meet some NFL players up and personal. Through the Donald Penn Foundation, Oakland Raiders Pro Bowl offensive tackle Donald Penn has made that a reality for local youths since 2009. Giving back and doing for others, especially young people, is where Penn’s heart is. And that’s a pretty big heart.

Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith have some fun with this youngster at the 2015 Donald Penn Football Camp , which was held at St. Bernard High School in Playa Del Rey, California. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman
Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith have some fun with this youngster at the 2015 Donald Penn Football Camp , which was held at St. Bernard High School in Playa Del Rey, California. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

Penn’ s heart is a lot bigger than his 6-foot-4, 340 pound mountain frame he exists in. The way he goes about the camp, slapping high-fives with campers and passing long hugs and encouraging instructions on how to do certain drills the right way is a mere reflection of the kindness and the heartfelt generosity Penn bestows on young people.

The young people in Los Angeles know they’ve got a friend in Penn, who brought along Raiders teammates Malcolm Smith (Super Bowl XLVIII), D. J. Hayden, Keith McGill, Menelik Watson, Mychal Rivera, Jamize Olawale and others to assist him in passing along some footballs  tips at the daylong, free camp on Saturday, June 6. For the past several years, Penn has held youth football camps in both Los Angeles and Tampa Bay. Penn said giving back to the community is something he feels strongly about.

Oakland Raiders defensive back D. J. Hayden go over ball drills at the 2015 Donald Penn  Youth Football Camp. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman
Oakland Raiders defensive back D. J. Hayden go over ball drills at the 2015 Donald Penn Youth Football Camp. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

“When I grew up there wasn’t anything like this,” Penn said. “My mom had to work her butt off to get me into UCLA, USC camps, and they were always charging. I always said [that] if I made it, if I was blessed enough be in this position, I’d do it. I’d do it for free. And we’ve been doing it. It’s been going on; it’s growing larger and larger every year. I’m just blessed I’ve been able to do this.”

Penn has been able to do put on the youth football camp free of charge to inner-city and low-income youths through his Donald Penn Foundation, which is clearly the makeup of the man. It is through the Donald Penn Foundation that Penn and his wife, Dominique, are involved in a plethora of community events, including providing scholarship opportunities, helping families during the holidays and putting on the football camps.

Man of the hour: Oakland Raiders offensive lineman Donald Penn joke around with some of the participants attending the 2015 Donald Penn Youth Football Camp. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman
Man of the hour: Oakland Raiders offensive lineman Donald Penn joke around with some of the participants attending the 2015 Donald Penn Youth Football Camp. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

Penn’s generosity doesn’t stop there. Putting on free football camps is just one part of what Penn does through the Donald Penn Foundation. He donates money so Pop Warner teams can buy jerseys, and cut a check of $10,000 in 2014 to the St. Bernard High School football team, a place where he honed his gridiron talents. Penn spoke on the importance of having the Donald Penn Foundation in place to help him achieve what he wants to do in the community.

“My foundation is growing more and more every day,” Penn said. “I’m just trying to grow, just  trying to get more kids here every year, try to do more with my foundation every year if I can. I just try to help kids out. Kids, they’re not old enough to go get jobs or do something like that, so I just try to do stuff to help kids out…I do as much as I can for the kids.”

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1389 Articles
Dennis is a news and sports photojournalist. Dennis has covered and written on issues such as civil rights, education, politics, and social justice. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Daily Breeze, Daily Press, Los Angeles Wave, Los Angeles Sentinel, and other media outlets. Dennis is currently the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, and NCAA. Dennis is an alum and graduate of Howard University.