BALTIMORE — Two former NFL players from different teams with Maryland roots have come together with one purpose: to help the kids of Baltimore.
"When you take the ego out of it and just say, ‘How do we get the best work done for the city that our kids need?’ That’s how we got down this path," said Baltimore native, activist and former NFL'er Aaron Maybin.
Former Maryland Terrapin and Baltimore Raven Torrey Smith unveiled his LEVEL82 Fund "LEVEL Up Leadership Academy" along with Maybin. It’s an eight-week summer camp for kids ages 10-12 at Baltimore City Recreation and Parks’ Hilton Rec. Center.
"I’m extremely excited about this opportunity," said Smith. "Too often people come in and they try to give the community all their answers, the way they think the community should be fixed or helped. For us, we came in wanting to figure out how we can fit in. We’re a piece of the community. We’re not the community."
Smith, his wife Chanel and Maybin helped start the camp, re-opening the Hilton Rec Center. It had been closed for the last 13 years.
The pillars of the LEVEL82 Fund are Leadership, Education, Vision, Effort and Love. The organization strives to create a place to come together for those in Baltimore City.
The camp started on Monday. Smith and Maybin are already making an impact.
"You’re watching kids’ confidence change," said Smith.
"The kids that we’re working with now, going forward, will be our older kids that set the example for all of the younger kids that are going to follow," added Maybin.
To help launch the LEVEL Up Leadership Academy, Smith received a contribution from his former team. The Ravens donated nearly $400,000 toward rec. center upgrades like new flooring, paint, furniture and technology equipment.
"I’ve been able to grow and see how much the team cares about its city but also how it supports its players and its family in trying to help elevate this city," said Smith.
The Ravens say they will be announcing additional commitments in the future. Smith said there is more on the horizon as well.
"There are bigger things that are coming. Way bigger things that are coming."