The two-hour game of real life played Wednesday night at Camp Riley didn’t involve a final score.
Let it be known, however, that 52 campers more than held their own.
In a tradition started in 1992, Camp Riley, which is for children with physical disabilities and medical conditions, hosted members of the Indiana All-Star football teams for an evening of songs, games, laughs, ice cream and even tears.
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Four former Johnson County players — Greenwood cornerback Dylan Rosado, Center Grove offensive lineman Clay Hadley and Whiteland linemen Tarnjeet Singh and Ryder Emberton — were among those making memories to last a lifetime.
All are members of the South All-Star squad, which plays the North All-Stars this evening at North Central High School.
Due to the threat of thunderstorms, Lisa Elder, Camp Riley’s director of recreation therapy, moved all activities indoors.
The Camp Riley campers, ranging in age from 11 to 18 years old, entered the spacious room first. Some used wheelchairs, others using a cane to balance themselves as they walked.
Smiles were the common denominator.
“We walked into the room, and all the campers looked like they were happy and excited for this,” said Rosado, who will be a receiver at Quincy University, a Division II program in Illinois. “I knew what to expect and was preparing myself to make sure these kids had the time of their life. It looks like they are.”
Seven teams comprised of campers and players were assembled to prepare for the competitions, such as a fashion show in which teams were given hats, dresses, capes, masks and wigs to dress one player to look as ridiculous as possible.
One by one, the seven dressed-up players were called on to parade in front of those present while Smash Mouth’s song “All Star” blared in the background.
Emberton’s team prevailed in the battle of self-deprecation thanks to the Goldilocks look of Northview defensive end Mason Moon.
“The fashion show was pretty funny,” said Singh, who along with Hadley will be playing this season at the University of Indianapolis. “Seeing these kids happy makes you feel good — how much they appreciate you coming out to see them and playing games with them.”
The most emotional part of the evening occurred when the seven teams engaged in a dance competition. Each team sent one camper and one football player onto the floor to strut their best moves for all to see.
This was the 26th consecutive summer that Riley campers and some of the state’s premier high school football players got together in the hills of north central Morgan County.
“I think it’s the energy the All-Star football players bring. It’s just so fun for the (campers) to see these people being goofy and silly with them. They just look up to them because these are some amazing athletes they get to interact with,” Elder said.
“It’s a great opportunity for the football players to be able to get outside themselves a little bit and see kids with disabilities. A lot of times we get focused on what these kids can’t do, but here we’re focused on what they can do.”
At the end of the night, they had ice cream and players handed out T-shirts from the high school they represented to a few of the campers.
One camper was spotted with four T-shirts draped over his left shoulder.
“When you gave them the T-shirts, they were so happy. It’s just someone giving them a gift and showing them that you’re their friend,” Hadley said. “Seeing these kids with a smile on their face and not a worry in the world is the best.”
IFCA North-South All-Star Game
When: 7:15 p.m.
Where: North Central High School