On Monday morning, linebacker Connor Barwin joined Mayor Michael Nutter for the Smith Playground groundbreaking ceremony ...
Only four months ago, Connor Barwin stood in front of a crowd with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter as they unveiled the newly revitalized Ralph Brooks Park in South Philadelphia.
Monday morning, the linebacker was at it again.
Set up next to an old rec house was a podium, chairs, a small pile of dirt and ceremonial shovels. With numerous media outlets and community members in attendance, Barwin, Mayor Nutter, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and Pennsylvania State Representative Jordan Harris relayed a very important message.
The Smith Playground project is officially underway.
Located at 24th and Jackson Streets, Smith Playground is a facility that serves hundreds of kids each week. However, with its faded paint, cracked concrete and torn up, muddy field, it is clear the recreation center, basketball court and grass field are in need of help, which is exactly why the area was chosen.
"Community parks are so vital to kids in the neighborhood and I think they make Philadelphia a better and a healthier city, but to do it, it takes an entire community," Barwin said. "That's exactly what we did at Brooks Park and that's exactly what we're doing here and I'm proud to be a part of this project. There has been so much community involvement throughout the whole process.
"There is the (Philadelphia) Water Department, (Philadelphia) Parks and Recreation, Urban Roots, the public sector that has contributed a huge amount of dollars, the Eagles have been behind this project from the start and obviously my foundation. Again, (I'm) so proud to be a part of something like this because all of you are here, the entire community is involved and this will result in creating a healthier South Philadelphia for the kids that live in this neighborhood."
Through Barwin’s Make The World Better Foundation, the linebacker was able to contribute $300,000 dollars to the Smith Playground revamp. When finished, the neighborhood will reap the benefits of a new recreation center, basketball courts, a playground, a fitness trail and a multipurpose turf field.
The field will be a major asset to the South Philly Hurricanes, a local youth football team. Originally, turf was not part of the plan due to funding issues, but Barwin and Johnson knew they needed to find a way to get the job done.
"I sat in meetings with a number of coaches and some of the players," Barwin said. "If you could have seen the faces, I don't think I've ever seen a bigger look of disappointment in my life."
With the help of Mayor Nutter, they were able to come up with the extra money and make this team's dream come true.
"I called Kenyatta and said we have to find a way to raise this money. We did exactly that," he said. "We applied a little bit of pressure to Mayor Nutter, and I can't thank him enough because anytime any kid is on this field, it wouldn't have happened without this man right here."
Monday's ceremony, which will be Mayor Nutter's last in his current position, also served as an opportunity for him to highlight the work Barwin has done for the City in his three short years here. On and off the field, the linebacker has made an incredible impact and is helping improve the quality of life for those who reside in Philadelphia.
"Connor has been a serious driving force," Mayor Nutter said. "His father (Tom) is a public servant and has been for a long, long period of time, not here but in another jurisdiction. So, he understands what public service is all about. We had some conversations about that. In my time, there's no sports professional player that I've been to more public announcements with in this City than Connor Barwin. No one.
"Everybody needs to go online and make sure that Connor Barwin is the Walter Payton Man of the Year in the NFL because he is certainly the Man of the Year here in the City of Philadelphia."