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Long fifth graders graduate from C.H.A.M.P.S
C.H.A.M.P.S fifth graders
Long County fifth graders assemble for their graduation from the C.H.A.M.P.S. (Choosing Healthy Activities and Methods Promoting Safety) program at McClelland Elementary School cafeteria last week. (Photo/Denise Etheridge)

The Long County Sheriff’s Department sponsors C.H.A.M.P.S., a Georgia Sheriff’s Association program. C.H.A.M.P.S. strives to provide children with the “skills, ability, and knowledge to be safe, healthy, and happy, in preparation for a successful life,” by steering kids away from harmful habits like smoking, and risky addictions such as alcohol and drug abuse, according to program director Long County Deputy Diannia Duncan. The program also teaches children about Internet safety, Duncan said. In addition, lesson plans can cover bullying, choices and consequences, gangs, child abduction safety, peer pressure and water safety, according to the Georgia Sheriff’s Association website.

Long County Sheriff Craig Nobles and Duncan handed out certificates to students who completed the program, as their parents looked on, following an inspirational talk by guest speaker Fred Stokes. Stokes, a retired NFL player and entrepreneur, recounted how he and his sisters were raised by their hardworking, single mother in small town Vidalia. Stokes spoke about how making good choices helped him overcome adversity and reach his goals.

Stokes, who played for the Rams and competed in a winning Super Bowl game with the Redskins, said of his mother, “She never talked about me playing football. She never talked about me going into the NFL. She talked about me making the right choices.”

“Sometimes you make a bad choice, you get bad consequences,” Stokes told students. “When you make good choices, you get good consequences.”

He advised students that when they get older, they will understand the sacrifices their parents now make for them. Stokes said his mother made sacrifices for him and his sisters, but he didn’t realize the significance of it until he received his first NFL check. He said his mother earned a meager $7,200 yearly. His one check was 100 times more than that. Stokes said he bought his mother her first car, and her first home. But what she gave him was far more valuable, he said.

“My mom never gave up; she never quit,” Stokes said.

Stokes told kids he didn’t play football until his senior year of high school. In eighth grade, he chose to remain in the band instead of joining the football team. It was not an easy decision, he said, and it caused his friends to laugh at him. However, it was the right choice for him.

“Who’s laughing now?” Stokes asked.

When he did train for football, he ran an extra mile every day after practice to condition himself, Stokes said.

“Some things are hard but it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Stokes told his young audience that they are all unique individuals, and that wealth and material possessions do not define them. 

“Your clothes, your house, or how much money you have doesn’t make you who you are,” he said. “It’s who you are inside that matters.”

NFL Fred Stokes speaking to Long County fifth graders
Long County Sheriff Craig Nobles chats with guest speaker and former NFL player Fred Stokes prior to the C.H.A.M.P.S graduation. (Photo/Denise Etheridge)
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