FAIRMONT — Tyreke Addison always dreamed of giving back.
“Tyreke used to sit around and talk about some things he’d want to do if he ever got a chance to do them for the community,” said James Townsend, Addison’s step father. “He always said he wanted to give back and he had a big love for young kids. He wanted to share in their lives.”
His dream was fulfilled posthumously on Saturday as more than 20 children took to the Fairmont High School football field, the same one he once dominated on as a running back/wide receiver, for the Tyreke Addison (TDA7) Memorial Scholarship Foundation’s inaugural Punt, Pass and Kick competition.
The foundation was founded in April by Addison’s family members and other close friends to memorialize the multi-sport standout, who was one of two Fairmont athletes killed in a single-car accident in July 2012. The foundation is working to raise money for scholarships for students at the six county high schools and also promote safe driving habits.
At the center of Saturday was the NFL-sanctioned competition, in which players ages 5- to 14-years-old throw a ball, kick it off a tee, then punt it. The distances of all three are measured, with the total distance determining the winner.
But as the competition played out, a festive atmosphere surrounded the field itself. There was a deejay playing music, people dancing. The smell of charcoal filled the air as hotdogs were cooked. As the kids finished their turns in the competition, they’d grab a ball and toss it amongst each other.
The NFL provided all the equipment for the competition, including kicking tees, balls and ribbons for winners, but the foundation added the sizzle of t-shirts, food and medals for the winners.
“We wanted to set this apart from the average Punt, Pass and Kick,” Townsend said.
It added to an event that Addison’s family members felt was right for the circumstances.
“It keeps (Addison’s) spirit alive,” said Tabatha Scott, Addison’s aunt, who traveled from Georgia to attend the event. “He had the brightest spirit around, the brightest smile. Everyone loved him.”
The choice of event, Townsend said, was simple. He personally had memories of doing punt, pass and kick events in Fairmont when he was younger and wanted to bring it back.
Participants were boys and girls all with a variety of experience. The competition emphasizes accuracy, with distance from a centerline deducted from the throw or kick’s length, a factor that Townsend said makes it more accessible.
“Most people that win in this really aren’t the football type,” he said. “You can be the average kid and win this event easily.”
Participants also got a presentation on safe driving from local police officers.
Belinda Locklear, a school resource officer for the Lumberton Police Department, emphasized that in the car it’s better to be safe than sorry and encouraged seatbelt use.
“Once the wheels get rolling, it’s not just your life in jeopardy, but other peoples’ lives as well,” she said.
Sgt. Jason Norris of the Fairmont Police Department spoke to the kids as someone who knew Addison personally and told the participants that police officers don’t enjoy writing tickets for things like seatbelts.
“We don’t want to write a ticket, but we have to,” he said.
Both also talked about texting while driving and other dangers of the road.
Norris said there is an importance in stressing safe driving habits at a young age.
“As a kid, that’s the foundation,” he said.
It’s a message that will continue to be present at any other events the foundation puts on.
“Everytime we do something that involves kids we’re always going to bring awareness to careless driving, drunk driving, texting while driving, all the hazards that cause accidents in a split second,” Townsend said. “We’re going to always keep that as a theme as the foundation.”
Though word about the event didn’t spread as well as the foundation hoped, Townsend said was pleased with the end result.
“When we got out here this morning we didn’t know what to expect.” “We didn’t know if we were going to walk out here to one or ten kids. We saw all these kids and we know it had a lot to do with them knowing Tyreke and the kind of person he was. Everybody in the community loved him. This turnout meant a lot to us.”