Michael Rubin darted down the field in a 40-yard dash, neck-in-neck with one of Philadelphia's youth. When the child crossed the finish line, he was greeted with gleeful applause from cornerback Avonte Maddox, toting a stop-clock to mark times.
In another corner of the NovaCare Complex indoor practice facility, tackle Jordan Mailata used a measuring tape while a group made their best attempt at the broad jump, some enjoying a boost from SWOOP. All the while, kids lined up to run routes, taking pointers from tight end Dallas Goedert as Philadelphia-based rapper Meek Mill launched footballs in their direction.
Tuesday was a day of joy for a special group of 35 Philly kids who faced otherwise grim circumstances throughout their childhoods. In partnership with the 76ers and REFORM Alliance, a social justice foundation co-chaired by Rubin, the CEO of Fanatics, and Meek Mill, the team hosted a fun-filled "Eagle for a Day" experience for kids who have been impacted negatively by the criminal justice system.
"To have the sports world indulge in real issues in the communities that they play at and the fans, I think that is super special," said Meek Mill, reflecting on the event.
According to REFORM's official website, approximately 95,000 people are incarcerated each day for a technical violation. Many individuals are forced to leave their families to serve time in prison – a heartbreaking byproduct of a broken system. All of the kids in attendance at the event had paid its price.
"It affects everyone in their bloodline. It affects their mothers, their kids, and their sisters. It's something that affects tens of millions of people, and it's actually having the opposite effect of what it should do, what we want to do is to help keep communities safe," said Rubin.
"But if you keep people stuck in the system and you keep sending them back to prison for not committing crimes, what you're doing is you're really holding everyone back and adversely affecting their entire family."
On Tuesday, the Eagles hosted 35 children who the criminal justice system has negatively impacted for a very special event with REFORM Alliance co-chairs Michael Rubin and Meek Mill.
The event represented a fraction of REFORM's efforts to combat the outcome of unjust probation and parole rules. Since its inception, REFORM has played an integral role in the passing of 16 bills in 10 states that have created a pathway for 650,000 people to get out and stay out of prison. But Tuesday's event was all about the kids, focusing time and resources on showing them care and fostering hope for a bright future.
"The first thing we want to do is give these kids the most spectacular day of their life. We want them to dream big, see big things, and give them an opportunity to meet some of these incredible Eagles players, Sixers players. To be inspired and know that the situation they're in is not the way they need to live," said Rubin.
Following the combine-style drills with Eagles players including Maddox, Mailata, Goedert, and Darius Slay, the kids were guided on a tour throughout the NovaCare Complex, making a special stop to the LifeBrand Draft Room to sign a "one-day contract" with the Eagles.
It commenced with their first team meeting as a customized Eagles jersey awaited on each child's seat. After listening to encouraging remarks from Jalen Hurts, Howie Roseman, and Rubin and taking a "draft class" group photo, they were bussed across Broad Street to the Wells Fargo Center. There, the day only sweetened as they met 76ers Head Coach Doc Rivers, rang the bell with Meek Mill, and enjoyed the Sixers game against the Kings courtside.
"Presenting those kids with something they'll remember for the rest of their lives – it definitely affects me when you have the opportunity to impact people in the way that we do," said Hurts.
It was a day that the kids would not soon forget, fittingly capped with a 20-point Sixers win.