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Playground Build Center Stage

It goes far deeper than transforming a neighborhood once again. It goes beyond taking a day out of the office and giving back to the world in need.

Far beyond what the Eagles can do on the football field, Eagles Youth Partnership makes this a centerpiece of a year of making a difference.

The scene is a familiar one for the Eagles as they dig deep on a Wednesday in sweltering heat and bring hope to a Kensington playground and a community that has long been mired in the usual dirty business of the inner city: drugs, lack of responsibility, and a narrow vision of what is right and wrong for kids.

This is the day that the entire organization gives back and builds a playground for a piece of the city in need. The sights and the stories are going to be the same as they have been since '97, since the greatness of Eagles Youth Partnership extended beyond the boundaries of what team charities do. Every year EYP takes a sweeping look at a city in desperate need and identifies a large handful of the pockets of Philadelphia that will benefit the most from a day of building a playground that includes a renovation of an elementary school's landscape, its playground, the interior and exterior of the building.

It's a marvelous, gratifying day that means so much to so many, and that ultimately provides a world of difference for a community of families that wins and losses on the football field simply cannot equal.

Look, we know why the Eagles exist. Football is the ultimate entertainment. We're seeing just how much of an impact the NFL is far beyond what happens every Sunday. Fans around the world enjoy the cadence of the sport in the offseason and, of course, live for the vibrancy of the week-to-week beat in the season.

But Eagles Youth Partnership reminds all of us how much of a difference the NFL platform makes on a day-to-day away from the playing field. There is, and let's be clear about this, no team organization with a charitable wing as meaningful as is Eagles Youth Partnership. And I'm not talking about Philadelphia, or the northeastern part of our country, or the entire USA or, in fact, the beautiful world in which we live.

Eagles Youth Partnership is recognized almost weekly, it seems, for its brilliance. The list of awards EYP has won is lengthy, but none more prominent than being named as one of three teams in the world -- among 120 countries -- for the Beyond Sport Sports Team Of The Year Award in 2010. Eagles Youth Partnership was the lone organization from North America to gain status as a finalist, and the goal in 2011 is to go the distance in South Africa.

I've been involved in just about every facet of Eagles Youth Partnership over the years. There are the daily visits to needy neighborhoods for the Book Mobile and the Eye Mobile, the fund-raising efforts that make my heart flutter for the Locker Room Breakfast, the recognition of high school scholar-athletes that is the Top Achievers program, a city-wide chess tournament, the Power Partners reading program and, of course, Flight Night!, which replaced the Eagles Carnival and drew more than 30,000 fans to Lincoln Financial Field the last couple of years.

It is a marvelous arm of the Eagles organization, the brainchild of Jeffrey and Christina Lurie, run with discipline and unbridled passion by executive director Sarah Martinez-Helfman and guided by her great staff as well as the efforts of every member of the Eagles organization.

One of the truly remarkable exclamation points is the Playground Build, which impacts a generation in a community. Don't overlook the moment, Eagles fans. I know your minds are elsewhere in this difficult offseason in the NFL. But don't let the work stoppage obscure the truth: The impact the Eagles make, through Eagles Youth Partnership, lasts forever among a school filled with kids who are infused with hope, with a future, when the entire organization rolls into their neighborhood to make a lasting difference.

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