We share the same history, the same ancestry, the same dreams and aspirations. Today, you leave this incredible tool with us. Tomorrow, when you go back to the NFL, you take a piece of our hearts. You are now our brother.
Garden Valley, TX (Vocus) July 12, 2008
Recently returned from a week-long international humanitarian mission to support Mercy Ships, his charity of choice, Malcolm Kelly looks forward to his upcoming NFL training camp with an additional sense of purpose knowing that he's part of a much larger team as well.
The former standout receiver at the University of Oklahoma and 2nd Round draft pick of the Washington Redskins made the "Vision Trip" to Monrovia, Liberia as a way to shed light on the medical relief effort Mercy Ships has provided for the last four years to the people of the war-torn nation.
A highlight of the trip came as Malcolm and his father Moses Kelly were received by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who personally thanked Malcolm for providing a positive role model for young people in Liberia.
"More than anything, our youth need someone to look up to who has excelled, not only in athletics, but in life. Understanding the importance of discipline, work-ethic and education, as well as nutrition and physical well-being is critical in our efforts to rebuild Liberia," noted President Sirleaf.
"Malcolm's willingness to come here to Liberia, a nation founded by freed American slaves, builds on the natural kinship between Americans and Liberians. Having a young African-American athlete who has achieved so much in life at such a young age reach out to our young people in this way is priceless. We need more of that. Our young people need that kind of encouragement at this critical time in our nation's history," Sirleaf stated.
Kelly was obviously moved by his experience in Liberia. "Everywhere we went, people ran up to me to shake my hand and hug me, saying 'Thank you! Thank you!' I was a hero, but not because I'm a football player; it was because I was wearing a Mercy Ships Crew shirt. I don't think I've ever been more humbled and honored than to be considered a part of the Mercy Ships team," he said.
Kelly stayed onboard the Africa Mercy during the trip, observing surgeries, and visiting with dozens of patients on the recovery wards. The group also visited a clinic under construction by a Mercy Ships Field Service Team some 20 miles inland in the rural community of Tenegar.
While also in Liberia, Kelly met with officials from the Ministry of Youth and Sports and Liberian Olympic Committee. Liberia's educational and sports initiatives were sidelined during the 14-year civil war and the nation struggles to make improvements to even the most basic health and living standards.
The 21-year-old rookie brought along his personal trainer, world-renowned sports performance coach Chip Smith from Competitive Edge Sports, based in Atlanta, Georgia. In addition to ensuring Malcolm's readiness for Redskins Training Camp, which begins July 20th, Smith held sessions for 35 Liberian coaches and athletes including members of the Olympic Team and Committee at the invitation of the National Minister of Youth and Sports. "Train the Trainer" sessions were held at the National Sports Complex which included teaching on sports theory and workout demonstrations and exercises.
"Chip has trained more professional athletes with this system than anyone else in the world," stated Kelly as he addressed the Liberian assembly of athletes and coaches before one of his workouts. "We are leaving the system and training equipment here for you as my gift, along with my promise that I will be back with other athletes to help encourage you to stay focused and keep working to fulfill your dreams."
In response, one Liberian Olympian spoke on behalf of his nation by saying, "We share the same history, the same ancestry, the same dreams and aspirations. Today, you leave this incredible tool with us. Tomorrow, when you go back to the NFL, you take a piece of our hearts. You are now our brother." The Liberians presented Kelly and Smith with Lone Star jerseys from the National Soccer Team and colorful traditional African clothing.
Kelly named Mercy Ships as his charity of choice earlier in 2008 soon after declaring himself eligible for the 2008 NFL Draft. Mercy Ships International Operations Center is located only 25 miles from Kelly's hometown of Longview, Texas.
Mercy Ships has operated hospital ships in developing nations since 1978 bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor by mobilizing people and resources worldwide. A crew of both professional medical and non-medical volunteers serves all people without regard for race, gender, or religion. The Mercy Ships Crew are expected to perform more than 7000 medical procedures during their 2008 field service in Liberia.
For more information about this trip or to schedule an interview with Malcolm Kelly, contact:
Pauline Rick, US Media Liaison
Tel: (903) 939-7649
rickp @ mercyships.org
Additional updates can be found at http://malcolmkelly.mercyships.org/
Hi-res photos can be downloaded at http://www.mercyshipsnews.org or sent upon request. Please contact Pauline Rick for video clips of Malcolm in Liberia.
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