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NFL to bring flag football, funding to Philly for draft festivities

Former, current, and possibly future Philadelphia Eagles will visit hospitals and teach kids about flag football as NFL aims to build community.

The NFL draft isn't coming to Philadelphia in two weeks just to make young men rich and snarl traffic around the Parkway.

The league says it wants to help, too.

Along with fanfare on the Parkway and high-stakes picks, the NFL said it would coordinate hospital visits, flag football clinics and funding, and partnerships with the Special Olympics, and host special honorees, including the family of an Army lieutenant from Logan who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.

>> Click here for more coverage of the 2017 NFL draft in Philadelphia

The league, according to a news release, will cut the ribbon on draft week April 25 with Mayor Kenney, former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski, and Anna Isaacson, the league's senior vice president of social responsibility, at Starr Garden Playground, Sixth and Lombard Streets.

"We really make sure we are working directly with the community to leave a legacy," Isaacson said Thursday. "We focus on youth health and wellness and character.

Afterward, the NFL will host a flag football clinic for students of McCall Elementary and Middle School, nearby on Seventh Street. The league is providing an unspecified grant to the School District of Philadelphia to expand and equip flag football programs.

"We just see flag football as a way to get kids active and healthy, especially if it's 60 minutes a day," Isaacson said.

Officials with the School District did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday.

The NFL is also bringing a digital "character playbook" to city schools, beginning April 26 at Ziegler Elementary School in Oxford Circle. According to the NFL, the program is used in 29 NFL markets and helps students "cultivate and maintain healthy relationships."

NFL draft prospects will visit Shriners Hospital in North Philadelphia on April 26, the league said, and players and "legends" will visit Children's Hospital of Philadelphia on April 27, the day the draft festivities are set to begin on the Parkway.

The league says it will also conduct several flag football clinics with schools and youth groups on the Parkway as well as hold a "play zone" there. High school athletes from the region will take part in a seven-on-seven tournament.

On April 28, athletes from Special Olympics Pennsylvania will be coached by Eagles players when they compete in a Special Olympics Unified Flag Football game.

A Make-A-Wish recipient and patient from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital will make draft picks, along with the wife and son of Army First Lt. Demetrius Frison, who was killed by a bomb in 2011 on his first tour of Afghanistan.

Frison, a Lancaster native, grew up a passionate Eagles fan in Logan, said his mother, Louella. But it was a house divided. His father, Paul, was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and his brother, Paul Jr., rooted for the Dallas Cowboys.

"They would all be in this house hollering and screaming when the Eagles played," Louella Frison said. "He was a big, big Eagles fan."