Even under gray skies and a few drizzles of rain, nothing could dampen spirits on Wednesday as Eagles players, coaches and staff came together to transform Hamilton Disston Elementary School in Northeast Philadelphia at the organization's 20th annual Playground Build.
For those taking part in the build, it was a mix of veteran volunteers and first-timers. And, although the Eagles have a brand new coaching staff for the upcoming 2016 season, head coach Doug Pederson and wide receivers coach Greg Lewis were among those who are Eagles Playground Build experts, as both have participated in the past as players, along with director of player engagement Quintin Mikell.
Eagles players, coaches and staff joined together to transform the Disston Elementary School in Northeast Philadelphia at the 20th Annual Playground Build ...
All three remember their first builds and interacting with the children, who this year ranged from kindergartners to eighth graders, expressing how meaningful this event is for the rookie players, specifically.
"I think it shows them the importance that the organization places on community service and really being a part of the community," Mikell said. "One of the things that the rookies get from it is all it takes is a few hours out of your day to make a difference in any kid's life.
"They used to always say this, but now I really see it, just get down on a knee, get to their level, talk to them, smile, ask them how they're doing. That stuff goes a long way. I still have people from my playing days, kids that are grown up now, that say, 'Man, I remember when you came and talked to me.' It's more impactful than they can imagine."
"Part of being in the national spotlight, the local community spotlight with the Philadelphia Eagles organization gives them an opportunity to kind of see what it means to give back," Pederson added. "That's what I want them to take away from this. These are memories that will last forever."
For Lewis, he appreciated the opportunity to do something for the Philadelphia fans who supported him as a player and now as a coach. His first Playground Build was in 2003 and participating at Hamilton Disston marked his eighth.
Over the past 20 builds, the event has grown and become more elaborate. A turf field installation is also now part of the building plan and adds a new area for the kids to play and be active, allowing for more fun than the previous concrete surface.
As the day wrapped up, the blue and yellow playground structures were complete and the mural across the back wall of the brick school came to life with bright splashes of red, yellow, green and blue paint, giving everyone involved something to be proud of.
"On Sundays, Saturdays or Mondays, whenever we're playing, the community is behind us," Lewis said. "Just giving back and feeling that give and take between the two of us is a great feeling. Getting the whole organization here and getting their time, this is something that's important to them. Getting everybody out here and involved is awesome."
"You can see the smiles on (the kid's) faces and lighting up just getting to know you. They don't know you from a can of paint, but you're a Philadelphia Eagle. To see them smiling and enjoy being around you, it's a moment they won't forget."