The Tulalip Heritage boys basketball program is coming off of back-to-back years in which the team won at least 20 games and made it past District, Tri-District and Regional playoffs, all the way to State. An historic achievement for any program.
Now, entering the 2019-2020 season, the Hawks look to repeat past success with its current roster of rez ball hoopers. Gone are four seniors from last season, but in their place are five current seniors including standout guards Leno Vela, Josh Miranda and Isaac Comenote. They took to the court on Saturday, December 7 in their season opener. A home game versus the Darrington Loggers.
Tulalip struggled mightily from the jump. Shots weren’t falling, no one was rebounding and meanwhile Darrington took advantage of every opportunity afforded to them with a taller, heftier lineup. The score was 4-19 after the opening quarter, and that deficit ballooned to 11-40 at halftime.
In the 2nd half, the home crowd was anxious for some kind of spark to ignite their team’s offense. It never happened. Instead, the lack of shot making and rebounding continued. Tulalip ended up on the wrong side of a lopsided 32-68 loss. It was the lowest scoring output from a Tulalip Hawks team in nearly 3 years; a December 28, 2016 defeat to Lummi, 31-65.
With only two days between games, the boys had to make use of some selective amnesia and quickly forget about everything that went wrong vs. Darrington and focus on their next opponent. Tulalip hosted the Highlanders from Providence Classical Christian on Monday, December 9.
What a difference a game makes. The Hawks came out firing on all cylinders offensively, while relentlessly locking up Providence defensively. Jumping out to a 25-9 lead at the end of the 1st quarter, the boys kept the pedal to the metal and took a 39 point lead into halftime, up 52-13.
During one stretch, senior point guard Leno Vela went on a 16-0 run all by himself. He caught fire from downtown hitting four consecutive 3-pointers and then came up with back-to-back steals that he converted into layups. His scoring barrage fired up the home crowd and his fellow teammates who cheered him on.
“My shooting felt really good and my teammates found me when I got hot,” said Leno afterwards. “They trusted me and I was able to come up with buckets.”
The Hawks defense continued to feast on a Providence team that struggled with ball handling and routinely coughed up the ball via steal or bad pass. And with every turnover forced came the accustomed run-and-gun offense Tulalip is known for. All the starters scored multiple buckets in transition and hit a 3-pointer.
At the end of the 3rd quarter, Tulalip led 73-18. With the result no longer in doubt the bench came in to finish the game. The final score was 81-27. Leno led all scorers with 33 points, while Josh Miranda added 13 points.
A 54 point victory over Providence is a good way to wash away the stain from their opening loss to Darrington.
“We played our style of basketball tonight. I wanted them to be aggressive and attack the basket because we really didn’t do that in our last game,” explained Coach Fryberg after the blowout win. “Their aggressiveness resulted in lots of looks close to the basket and got them to the free-throw line. Defensively, we locked in early and pressed the issue throughout.”
Tulalip basketball is on the road for their next 3 games. They’ll return home on Thursday, December 19 for a matchup with Grace Academy.
The Tulalip Heritage girls basketball team opened their 2019-2020 season with a home game on Saturday, December 7. They hosted the Darrington Loggers at Francy J. Sheldon gymnasium.
Last season the Lady Hawks finished with a lackluster (4-12) record. In the weeks leading up to this new season the coaching staff opted to focus on pace of play and defensive hustle as their areas for improvement. Assistant coach Jeff Monsegur said, “We spent a lot of time working on cardio, just running and more running, so that we can have a quicker tempo on offense and keep our defense up in the 2nd half of games.”
With a few weeks of hearty conditioning and practice reps the Lady Hawks were prepared to make their team debut with a renewed sense of vigor and upbeat energy.
In their opening game against Darrington, their girls showcased a quicker pace right out the gate. They took an 8-2 lead after back-to-back buckets by Krislyn Parks and a 3-pointer by Deachae Jones. Darrington fought back and tied the game at 12-12 early in the 2nd quarter before employing a full-court defense that stymied the Lady Hawks. At halftime the home team trailed 19-21.
The second half was a highly competitive affair with both teams routinely diving on the hardwood for loose balls and coming up with timely buckets. Darrington opted to double team Jacynta Myles, forcing the Lady Hawks guards to create for themselves. Led by the aggressive driving of Krislyn, who earned a whopping 14 free-throw attempts by drawing fouls, Tulalip stayed within a bucket or two the entire game.
Down 36-37 with just over two minutes remaining, Darrington went back to their full-court defense and forced Tulalip to commit errant passes that led to three quick turnovers. Even so, with only seconds remaining, the girls had a chance to capture victory when Deachae shot a potential go-ahead 3-pointer. Unfortunately, her attempt fell just short and clanged off the rim for a miss. Tulalip 37, Darrington 41.
Krislyn led the Lady Hawks with 14 points, while Jacynta collected over 20 rebounds.
“We did so much running over the past three weeks so we wouldn’t burn out in the 2nd half of games, like we did last season. All that running really showed tonight,” reflected Krislyn following the game. “We’ll continue to work on our team hustle and never giving up on any plays.”
“Even when we lost our lead we stayed positive and kept cheering each other on. That attitude really helped us stay in the game,” added Jacynta. And on her huge rebounding total? “Because of my height the team relies on me to get rebounds. I don’t want to let them down so I try to get every one that I can.”
Tulalip basketball is on the road for their next 3 games. They’ll return home on Thursday, December 19 for a matchup with Grace Academy.
We live in an age where a message, no matter how positive or significant, is only as good as the platforms that give it life. Platform then is everything. So it was of utmost importance when 10 years ago the world’s largest supplier of athletic shoes and apparel chose to collaborate with Native America. Together Nike and Native artists and athletes developed an all-new platform to bring cultural representation into the mainstream. Enter N7.
N7 is inspired by Native American wisdom of the Seven Generations: in every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the seventh generation. It’s Nike’s commitment to bring sport and all of its benefits to Native American and Aboriginal communities in the United States and Canada.
Over the past decade, N7 athletic attire has become a highly sought after product due to its exclusive releases featuring distinct Native designs and imagery. From the devout sneaker heads to rez ball youths dreaming of making it to the pros, every N7 release is an opportunity to represent something authentic – a living, breathing and, most importantly, thriving culture.
“Self-representation, for me, is being authentic to my people and who I am,” explained Nike graphic designer Tracie Jackson, who created this season’s Nike N7 x Pendleton pattern inspired by the weavings of her great-grandmother, Phoebe Nez (Navajo). “Being visible means that we’re acknowledged, our land is acknowledged, our community is acknowledged.”
That authenticity and acknowledgment was on full display when Nike and Tulalip came together to celebrate the release of N7’s 10th anniversary product line in early November. Over 150 special invitees packed the Nike Outlet located on the Tulalip Reservation two hours before the store officially opened. Among the gathering were several Nike brand ambassadors, urban Natives from the Seattle area, members of the Tulalip Youth Council, and several culture bearers with drum in hand.
“My great-grandmother was still weaving right up until she passed at 92,” continued Tracie. “Without my great-grandmother, I wouldn’t have learned about my culture, and without my culture, I wouldn’t have been a designer. My family ties are what influence my Native identity.”
Tracie passed along her grandmother’s legacy in the 10th anniversary of the N7 collection, honoring heritage through special patterns with Pendleton. Native heritage was celebrated both through the specialty clothing line being released on Tulalip land and for the tribal citizenship who turned out to support the cause with their wallets and through powerful song and dance.
The Tulalip drummers, singers and dancers displayed their thriving culture on the Nike Outlet showroom. Several songs and important messages regarding missing and murdered Indigenous women, unity through community, and the positive impact of sport were shared.
Afterwards, the gathering turned its attention to the N7 x Pendleton attire as all invited guests got first dibs towards shopping the exclusive clothes designed by and for Natives.
“I thought this whole event was fantastic,” shared tribal member Marvin J. Velasquez as he was loading up with the latest N7 gear for his children. “What this collaboration represents for our Native people is huge. Just goes to show we are making a significant impression one step at a time.”
Proceeds from all N7 product line sales go directly to the N7 Fund, which is committed to getting youth in Native America moving so they can lead healthier, happier and more successful lives. The N7 Fund helps Native youth reach their greatest potential through play and sport while creating more equal playing fields for all. Since 2009, the N7 Fund has awarded more than $7.5 million in grants to 259 communities and organizations.
Co-coordinator of the Tulalip-based N7 event, Nate Olsen (Yakama Nation) reflected, “It was powerful to see our people really represented and celebrated in such a beautiful way. We really got to address some of the bigger social issues Native peoples face today thanks to the platform that Nike provided. Being able to present these issues to a wider audience and to have Tulalip drummer and singers sharing as well was just amazing.”
It was the summer of ’69. A special moment in time that many reflect upon as the best days of their lives, including the players of local baseball team, the Chiefs. The team was assembled by Tulalip tribal member, Cy Fryberg, and had an outstanding run that summer, winning in all-Native tournaments hosted at Yakama and Taholah. The Chiefs efforts led them to the final tournament of the summer held in Tacoma, where the stakes were high and the teams from surrounding tribal nations brought their A-game.
“We weren’t the first team with just Tulalip ballplayers, but this was the biggest one,” explained ’69 Chiefs second baseman, Don ‘Penoke’ Hatch. “All the top dogs from right here were recruited. At the time, that was something special. We were ready to face and challenge anyone that came at us, we didn’t care who we were playing.”
The all-star Tulalip team consisted of fifteen tribal members including Leroy Joseph, Marlin Fryberg Sr., Alpheus Jones, Richard Jones, Butchie James, Dean Fryberg Sr., Billy Jones, Skooky Henry, Jerry Jones, Gerald Fryberg, Dale Jones, Myron Fryberg, Penoke and player-coaches Herman Williams and Francy Sheldon.
With Leroy being the youngest on the team at 18, the rest of the players ranged in age from their early twenties to early thirties and brought plenty of experience to the team. Previously, each player spent their young lives playing for different teams like Marysville while growing up. The road to a championship wasn’t easy, however. While at Tacoma for the tournament, the team and their families slept on the floor of Penoke’s sister’s house. This allowed the team to further strengthen their bond while they stayed up late into the night strategizing, among other social activities.
“The first game we played was against Yakama Nation and we won that game,” recalled Penoke. “The following day we played Nisqually and won that one too. After that win, we went onto the championship game against Warm Springs and they were not an easy team to go up against.”
The large amount of playing began to take a toll on the Chiefs’ pitchers and the team needed a strong start to the championship game. Starting pitcher Marlin Fryberg went deep into the innings during their previous match against Nisqually. After trying out a number of players on the mound, the coaches turned to the catcher, Leroy, whose arm was looking strong each time he threw the ball back to the pitchers. Leroy received a quick lesson from his teammates, as he never pitched in a game prior to the championship competition. The Chiefs rallied behind Leroy and locked in. Inning after inning, the team pulled together and made big plays. By the end of the game, the Tulalip Chiefs proudly hoisted a trophy into the air and Leroy was named MVP.
Fast forward fifty years. Penoke stumbled across an old photo of the Chiefs during their 1969 summer baseball tournament tour and was filled with nostalgia. Reaching out to the Tribe, he organized a gathering for the players and their families on the afternoon of November 10, 2019 at the Greg Williams Court.
“It’s been 50 years since that tournament down there on Portland Avenue,” Penoke said. “I thought it was important that we celebrate this and share some good memories. Nobody celebrates these types of accomplishments anymore. I want someone young to see this in the See-Yaht-Sub and say ‘look at what they did 50 years ago’ and be inspired.”
After enjoying lunch, the families were treated to a slideshow presentation which featured narration by Leroy. Laughter ensued as Leroy’s colorful commentary recapped the championship game.
“It’s a big story because we already been to Yakama and won, we already been to Taholah that summer,” said Leroy. “This Tacoma tournament was the biggie. Just being a part of that reminds me of how together we were as friends and family, regardless of the games, we were all Tulalip and that is something I was extremely proud of.”
Coach Herman and several other players took time to express their desire to see the game of baseball flourish within Native communities once again, suggesting ideas such a tribal booster club to get more youth out on the field.
“The relationship from reservation to reservation, there’s little of it left,” agreed Penoke. “We’ve done very little to keep it going. You should’ve seen the strength of the community during hardball season, we all knew each other because each reservation had a lot of good ball players.”
To commemorate the 50th anniversary, each player received stylish red jackets that read ‘1969 Champs’ on the front and a Native, baseball-themed design on the back. Family representatives of those who are no longer with us accepted the jackets on their behalf.
“Best tournament I ever played in as an adult,” said Penoke. “We had a good team and good pitching. This team was successful because we had two veteran coaches in Herman and Francy. I’m 80 years old now and I wanted to honor those players who are still here.”
On the morning of Monday November 11, the Tulalip community gathered at the Hibulb Cultural Center (HCC) longhouse to thank the brave heroes who put their lives on the line to defend this Nation’s freedom. Service men and women filled the stands of the longhouse to pay their respects as well as share their active-duty experience.
During roll call, the veterans stated their name, military branch and years of service, among intriguing deployment stories. Family members of fallen soldiers spoke their name, recognizing them for their dedication to protecting this country. The HCC presented each veteran in attendance a gift bag, filled with items from their shop, as a sign of respect and gratitude. Since opening in 2011, the cultural center has made it a point of emphasis to pay tribute to the vets and ensure they are honored properly each November.
“It’s always a big honor to celebrate our veterans,” expressed Mytyl Hernandez, HCC Marketing and PR. “The veterans are a big part of the community and have been a huge part of our exhibits and museum. Being able to have an event for them is very special.”
Becoming an annual tradition, the ladies of the Veteran Quilting Project returned with several beautiful quilts made specifically with a tribal veteran in mind. Now in its fourth year, the Veteran Quilting Project is comprised of seven tribal quilters who produced nearly thirty red, white and blue star quilts for the eldest Tulalip veterans since 2016.
“I made mine for Walt Campbell,” said Quilter Verna Hill. “This is my first year joining the ladies and what an honor it is. With each and every cut, you think about what those veterans done for this country. To sit down and sew for them is so rewarding. And to be here today and wrap him with that quilt was amazing. His response to me was ‘this is better than any medal I’ve ever received’. That was very powerful. I’m thankful to be a part of this group and I can’t wait to continue wrapping our veterans in love.”
As the veterans accepted their quilts, Tulalip Artist Melissa Bumgarner surprised the veterans with a gift of her own.
“I made some beaded medallions,” she said. “At the center of each medallion is a plaque of the branch they served in; the Navy, Air Force, Army and Marines. I did it because I want to say thank you for what they did. It felt good to present that to them and show them appreciation.”
The HCC’s Veterans Day observance ended with three workshops geared toward the Indigenous veteran community; a soapstone carving demonstration with Choctaw Air Force Veteran Sam Sitt, an Ozette Archeological Recovery Experience with Tulalip Army Veteran John Campbell, and the Veterans Healing Forum with Rev. Bill Eaglehart Topash, Tulalip Marine Veteran.
“Veterans Day is a good time to remember those from the past,” expressed John McCoy, Tulalip Air Force Veteran. “Today was especially tough because we lost two of our World War II vets, Stan Jones and Moxie Renecker, this year. That was a special moment for me today, remembering those two great men.”
A large circle formation of about sixty Tulalip citizens congregated outside of the Youth Center on the bluff overlooking Tulalip Bay. The group, consisting of mostly youth, offered two traditional songs to three tall individuals who were standing at the center of the circle. In the distance was a yellow seaplane sitting on the waters of the bay, which the visitors arrived in moments prior. Leaders of the Tulalip Youth Council and previous Tulalip Mountain Camp and Fish Camp attendees were in for quite the surprise on the chilly fall evening of October 22.
“We were asked to be here by Jessica, our Youth Council Advisor,” explained Youth Council Secretary, Shylah Zackuse. “We were told it was going to be a team building experience. But I had no clue there was going to be former Seahawks players here.”
Three years ago, former Seahawks tight end and Super Bowl XLVIII Champion, Cooper Helfet, started a non-profit organization, the Nature Project, dedicated to getting kids outdoors for recreational fun, along with time away from their phone screens. Since then, Cooper has recruited former teammates, as well as a few current NFL players, to participate in the Nature Project. For the visit to Tulalip, Cooper brought along fellow former Seahawks, Jermaine Kearse and Tyrone Swoopes.
“I grew up in northern California and I had a lot of opportunities to get out into nature, whether that was hiking, camping, surfing or backpacking, it was a big priority in my family to do so,” said Cooper after thanking the people for the traditional songs. “Some of my favorite memories as a kid were doing those things. And as I got older, especially when I started playing with the Hawks and with different teams in my career, I realized a lot of my teammates didn’t get those opportunities. I started getting them outdoors more and they had an amazing experience developing their own relationship with the natural world.
“And I thought, how do we create these types of opportunities for kids? Especially in a time where video games, TV, the internet are exciting, but taking over our world. So I started this project, bringing out athletes to the kids of local communities to get them outdoors and impress upon them the importance of spending time outside.”
After taking time to snap a photo with the crowd, the football stars hung out with the youth, passing a soccer ball around. Approximately thirty kids introduced themselves to the group and stated one outdoor activity they enjoyed such as skateboarding, hiking, softball and basketball. Next, Cooper passed around sharpies and cedar medallions, asking the kids to write down one goal they hoped to accomplish in their lifetime.
“The real mission of the project is to motivate kids to spend more time outside and do so in a way where they can create positive physical memories with friends,” Cooper explained. “And to use that as a tool they can use throughout their life to be reflective and think about their goals and how to overcome adversity. We know that often times it could be hard for youth to relate, listen and let things soak in. One of the assets we have as athletes is we have an ability to connect with kids and know we’re going to have their ears and attention because we gained that beautiful gift of being their role models, so we try to pass that on to them through the Nature Project work.”
Once everybody’s goals were marked down, the kids had fun participating in an exercise designed to use the power of communication, teamwork, and creativity to find a way to obtain their goals. After putting in plenty of effort and refusing to give up, the kids got a little help from Cooper, Jermaine and Tyrone. However, in order to receive help from the football pros, the youth had to vocalize exactly what they needed from the athletes first.
The youth were shown that it is possible to achieve their aspirations by using teamwork and communication skills. The group then had an open conversation about attaining individual goals through determination, perseverance and utilizing personal resources.
“Perseverance for me is not giving up and overcoming every obstacle,” expressed Jermaine, who is also a Super Bowl XVIII Champ. “Adversity is going to show up in our lives whether it’s in sports, school, life or relationships. For me, in the 2015 NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers I had four targets, four passes thrown to me, and they were intercepted each time. It was a tough moment but I didn’t feel sorry for myself, I didn’t quit, go in the locker room, or sit on the bench with my head down. I knew there were going to be more opportunities and if I was going to be ready for the next opportunity I had to stay mentally in the game. My next opportunity so happened to be the game winning touchdown. That’s perseverance, not giving up on yourself and continuing to push forward.
“Sometimes we feel prideful, we have our egos and want to do things on our own. Please know that it’s okay to ask for help. It’s hard to go through life doing everything by yourself. If you have a group of friends or family that are really close to you, if you’re going through hard times in class or struggling, it’s okay to ask for help. Don’t feel ashamed because even the strongest people in the world need help.”
Every year the Tulalip Natural Resources department partners with the YMCA of Snohomish County to bring local youth the outdoor summer camps, Mountain Camp and Fish Camp. Upon hearing about the camps, the Nature Project was interested in hosting an outdoor event with the Tulalip community.
“The Nature Project learned about us through the YMCA,” said Ryan Miller, Tulalip Natural Resources Environmental Liaison. “Their whole goal is to get kids out into nature and have that experience that Cooper had when he was a kid, that he feels turned him into the person he is today. They felt he was a really good fit to do something with Tulalip and our youth. It’s an opportunity for the kids to learn about the importance of team work, perseverance, leadership and gives them skills that will help them throughout their lives.”
Tulalip youth Seth Montero fell in love with the great outdoors while at the Mountain and Fish Camps. His passion for nature was so strong that when he grew past the camp age limit, he took a course with the YMCA to take on a leadership role at the summertime camps. Seth thanked the former Seahawks for their work promoting outdoor activities.
“Nature is important because it’s all around us and every day we’re losing more and more of it. It’s always good to get outside whenever you have the chance. Go explore new places, appreciate all the views Mother Earth has to offer, because it might not always be there.”
To wrap up the evening, kids were given large water bottles courtesy of REI and all three Nature Project members took a moment to converse with each kiddo as they autographed their names across their bottles.
“It was so awesome,” said Tulalip Youth, Lincoln Pablo. “Jermaine Kearse has always been my inspiration for playing football. His catches are amazing. I always wanted to do what he did and get to the league. For my goal today, I wrote down play on our very own Seattle Seahawks.”
Before taking off in the seaplane, Jermaine and Tyrone were gifted handcrafted masks by Tulalip artist Ty Juvinel, and all three former Seahawks received paddles from the Tulalip Youth.
“You live on a beautiful reservation,” Cooper said. “If you’re looking for ways to get involved in outdoor fun, it’s as simple as walking along the beach or adventuring a little east and getting up in the woods. It doesn’t take much. It’s grabbing a neighbor and going for a walk, it doesn’t need be a planned thing. When I think about my childhood, none of my memories were inside paying video games. They were memories I can feel, hear, see and smell and were with friends. 99% of the time they were outdoors. You just got to take the initiative and go do it. Your ancestors were the original stewards of all this land we get to call home, and I just want to express that there’s an insane amount of gratitude that I have for that.”
Tulalip Heritage volleyball is back. For four consecutive years now the program has secured a playoff spot and Heritage girls have played meaningful postseason games. This 2019 team enters the new season with many players returning from last year. They have a new coach in Meaghan Craig, but the mission remains the same – continue to get better and win enough games to advance deep into the playoffs.
On September 19, the Lady Hawks hosted their season opener at Francy J. Sheldon gymnasium against Lummi Nation. Their home debut also allowed most spectators their first opportunity to check out the redesigned gymnasium floor complete with a Native weaving pattern created by Lushootseed teacher and tribal member, Michelle Myles.
In the opening set, Heritage fell behind 0-2 before going on a scoring surge. One Lady Hawk after another served up several aces and got the crowd into the match. After taking a 15-5 lead, the girls kept up the pace and won the set 25-8.
The 2nd set was much of the same. Tulalip was making a committed effort to communicating at every position, allowing each girl multiple opportunities to bump, set, or spike for points. After again taking a big lead, this time 17-7, they won the next set 25-10.
Going into the 3rd set, the Lady Hawks were all smiles. It was obvious that by their style of play they were determined to get the ball over the net at a higher rate this year, thereby not costing themselves points on unforced errors. With the much improved service game, they again took a big lead of Lummi 12-3 before closing out the final set 25-10.
Winning the match 3 sets to 0 in their season opener, and doing so in dominant fashion, gave team captains Deachae Jones and Kislyn Parks much to be proud of following the match.
“We scouted Lummi before this match, so we were prepared for them,” said junior, Krislyn. “We want to be more positive with each other and work better as a team and that really shined through tonight.”
“Our expectations for this game were to work together and lift each other up when we hit the rough patches,” added senior Deachae. “But in this game we really didn’t have any rough spots because everyone played really well.”
About that improved service game as a team that led the Lady Hawks with so many aces the co-captains shared their coach has really emphasized doing whatever is comfortable to get the ball over, whether that’s underhand, overhand, or jump serve. “That really gave everyone more confidence and we only expect to get better as the season goes along,” said Krislyn.
The Lady Hawks host fellow tribal school Muckleshoot tonight at Heritage High School in what’s sure to be another fast-paced volleyball match.
The Pacific Northwest is Seahawks country. From Blue Fridays to rallying chants of “Sea-Hawks!”, the 12th Man is synonymous with Seahawks fandom. But even for the most devout of fan bases, it’s a rarity for beloved players to make themselves accessible to their adoring fans, let alone those who live on a small reservation an hour outside of Seattle. Amazingly, Super Bowl champion Michael Bennett proved to be the rare exception when he held an inclusive football camp on the Tulalip Reservation.
“It’s important to give tribal people, the original people of Seattle, the opportunity to be with the players they follow and love to watch on Sundays,” said Bennett. “Even though their circumstances are different, I want to help empower them to fight for what they want to fight for while always being the people they want to be.”
Nearly 250 kids between ages 7-18 years old participated in the highly anticipated O.C.E.A.N. sports camp held at the Tulalip Sports Complex on Sunday, June 23. Registration was completely free of charge for any youth of Tulalip and surrounding communities thanks to collaborating partners Rise Above, Boys & Girls Club of Snohomish County, Tulalip Tribes, Galanda Broadman and The Bennett Foundation.
“We’ve been using football camps as a way to promote healthy lifestyle choices and overall wellness for close to seven years now,” explained Bennett Foundation cofounder Pele Bennett, Michael’s wife. “The Foundation has been fortunate to host camps in other states and countries. Even though Michael is no longer a Seahawk, we love being able to return to Seattle where we are so welcomed and make an impact to the local communities.”
During his five-year tenure as a Seahawk, Bennett was a defensive stalwart with an uncanny ability to get after the opposing team’s quarterback. Even casual fans remember his celebratory sack dance that happened so frequently it earned him three consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl and his team back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. Now, he’s using his abilities and larger-than-life personality to tackle a new opponent, childhood obesity.
“When you look at obesity and diabetes in our community, the black and brown communities around the world, it’s rampant,” said Bennett. “Food and nutrition are the biggest barriers to the overall well-being of our peoples. People don’t have Whole Foods everywhere they go. For tribal people, they don’t have access to their traditional foods. It’s important to have a sense of compassion and empathy for what other people are going through, and work together to break down those barriers that divide us.”
Bennett and his wife Pele started The Bennett Foundation with the goal of raising awareness about obesity and providing communities with educational opportunities to learn how to live a healthy and active lifestyle. As one of the longest running programs of The Bennett Foundation, O.C.E.A.N. is an acronym for fighting Obesity through Community, Education, Activity and Nutrition. The objective of the O.C.E.A.N. sports camp is to educate the community on healthy food choices and promote physical fitness as a family.
Every camp is designed specifically for each individual community, and may feature a health expo, a family fitness clinic, or an exciting fitness challenge. For Tulalip, the emphasis was on physical fitness through a variety of football drills and skill building exercises that were enjoyed by all youth participants.
Among the hundreds of eager kids who made it out on the picture-perfect summer day in Tulalip were families journeying from as far south as Olympia and as north as Nooksack. Of course, many local parents and guardians took full advantage of the on-reservation event to have their young athletes meet a sports superhero they’ve only seen on TV playing for their favorite football team.
Excited 8-year-old Annavay Hatch and 7-year-old Lila Joel described meeting the former Seahawks Pro Bowler as “Good. Wait, no, it was great!” Both ran multiple passing routes in the hopes of catching a football thrown by Bennett. Annavay beamed a huge smile after catching a Bennett pass, while Lila was unable to, but still had lots of fun trying. “I caught zero. The ball was slippery, but I came really close a couple times,” she said.
Making a memory she’s sure to never forget, 11-year-old Noelani Cultee ran a Doug Baldwin-like comeback route, jumped up, extended her arms as far as she could and made a highlight catch by bringing in a Bennett pass thrown well above her head. Following the impressive play she boasted, “That was so cool. I thought I wasn’t going to catch it because I could feel it slipping through my fingertips, but I held onto it!”
Countless youngsters made the most of their opportunity to catch a pass from the Super Bowl champ. One after another managed to reel in a pass and after each successful attempt they’d quickly run the ball back to Bennett and give the professional football player an ecstatic high-five. At one point Bennett joked he’d connected on so many touchdown throws that the Seahawks should sign him as their backup quarterback.
As the kids motioned around the football field transitioning from station to station they completed a number of physical activities. Aside from the countless curl, post, slant, and out routes ran, they also engaged in agility ladders, tested their lateral reactions with cone drills, jumped mini hurdles, and got stronger with lunges, squats and pushups just like the pros. With a DJ providing musical hits to workout to, there were only positive and encouraging vibes in the air.
“You can just feel the positive energy that’s here in this moment,” marveled Jaci McCormack (Nez Perce), founder of the nonprofit Rise Above which uses sports to educate and empower native youth to live healthy lives. “There’s no way to measure how these camps and athletic clinics impact these kids long term, but if we could measure that I think it would be a significant.
“These kids are going to remember catching a pass from Michael Bennett for the rest of their lives,” continued Jaci. “It’s not necessarily about football, it’s about Michael and all the volunteer coaches choosing to be here and spend time with them. We care about them, they are our future and for them to choose to make positive choices every day is the ultimate goal. Experiences like this speaks volumes to our kids and lets each of them know they matter.”
Following the football-filled afternoon, everyone gathered in the end zone to conclude the event with a traditional song. Bennet was gifted a unique ‘Salish Song’ paddle and commemorative 12th Man hand drum. Generously giving of his time, the NFL defensive end stuck around for an additional hour and a half to ensure every camp participant and adoring fan, including many parents and volunteer coaches, received an autograph and one-on-one picture.
“When you interact with tribal people, you feel the spirit of everything around, the essence of where you are,” reflected Bennett as he walked off the field and took in the scenery that is Tulalip Bay. “Here there’s a culture behind everything, there’s a significance to everything being done. It’s powerful, something I’ll never forget.”
Since 1968, the Special Olympics have been a global movement used to unleash the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports. They empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all.
In Washington State, year-round sports training and athletic competition are provided in a variety of Olympic-type sports for more than 18,000 children and adults who refuse to believe a disability is a limitation. These inspiring individuals are given continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of friendship with their fellow athletes.
Thirty-seven-year-old Bruce Williams is a proud Tulalip tribal member who has competed in numerous sporting events at the Special Olympics for over a decade. Previously showcasing his skills at soccer, basketball and volleyball in years past, Bruce is now focused on track and field. He’s had a long-time passion with running, so it was only a matter of time before he transitioned to track.
Bruce’s collection of previously won medals.
On Sunday, April 28 the Cascade Area Regionals were hosted at Mariner High School in Everett. After months of preparation and sporting his brand new pair of Nike Free running shoes, Bruce was ready to race. His first competition was the 100-meter sprint. In a highly contested dash, Bruce took 2nd place, finishing less than a tenth of a second behind the 1st place runner. For his effort he was awarded a silver medal.
A short while later, Bruce again took to the starting line, this time for the 200-meter sprint. This time he wouldn’t be denied the gold. From the start he jumped out in front of the pack and maintained his momentum all the through the finish line. A huge smile on his face after finishing 1st, Bruce was beaming when he received a gold medal.
The Special Olympian proudly wore his two medals every day the following week. He made time to sit down with Tulalip News staff and share his thoughts about winning gold and silver in his two athletic events. Here are some of the highlights from that conversation:
Q: How does it feel to be a gold-winning Olympian?
A: “Feels great! Very proud of winning. Want to show everybody my medals.”
Q: What was your training routine like?
A: “Train on the treadmill, do laps at the Marysville YMCA, and lots of track stretches. Very important to stretch.”
Q: Any special foods you like to have on race day?
A: “Strawberry yogurt is my favorite and lots of water.”
Q: You raced in a pair of Nike Free shoes. What do you like about them?
A: “They make me run fast!”
Q: Were you nervous going into your races?
A: “A little. Lots of people racing, but I’m the fastest one around.”
Q: You’ll be competing at the Spring State Games next month. What are your expectations?
A: “Win more gold, the big one this time.”
Bruce will be prepping over the next several weeks to compete against the best Special Olympians in the state. The 2019 Spring State Games will be held May 31 – June 2 at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. Bruce asks that anyone who isn’t busy those days to come out and cheer him on to victory.
RaeQuan Battle’s inspirational journey from rez ball rookie to Marysville Pilchuck legend to University of Washington commit continues to demonstrate a seemingly limitless potential on the basketball court. Even with a bright future ahead of him and dreams of making the NBA, the 6-foot-5 human highlight real has never forgotten his roots. Those roots keep him grounded with a rare humility and silent strength that don’t go unnoticed by adults and youth alike.
That is just one of the many reasons RaeQuan was named by the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club as Youth of the Year. The 18-year-old high school senior was honored with a custom plaque and given some fancy gadgetry, a 2-in-1 Notebook/Tablet, in front of a crowd of his adoring young fans on March 12.
For years, the Youth of the Year program has honored and celebrated the Club’s most inspiring teens and their incredible journeys. Stories of outstanding leadership, service, academic excellence and dedication to living a healthy lifestyle have made Youth of the Year a premier leadership and recognition program for teens. These amazing young people represent the voice and spirit of hope for children everywhere, inspiring kids to lead, to succeed, and to inspire.
“RaeQuan has been coming to our Boys & Girls Club since he was 5-years-old,” said Club Director Mark Hatch. “We see his greatness with basketball, but more importantly we see how he’s become a true inspiration for our young ones who look up to him as an example of what’s possible through hard work and dedication.”
“He was chosen for his volunteering and mentoring with the youth, and for his community service, sportsmanship and demeanor,” added Office Manager Diane Prouty.
Each year, one exceptional Club member is selected to be Youth of the Year, serving as an ambassador for Boys & Girls Club youth. Over the years, these individuals have exemplified the Boys & Girls Club mission and are proof to the impact Clubs make in creating life changing opportunities that transform the lives of countless Club kids.
“The first time I ever played basketball was here. I fell in love with basketball right here,” reflected RaeQuan as he stood in the Club’s gym with a horde of basketball fledglings around him, each eager to witness one of his gravity defying dunks. “I want all the kids to know they can turn out just like me or be even better. All they have to do is take advantage of their opportunities.”
Following the ceremony, RaeQuan’s mother Jacquie Williams shared, “Having the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club for my kids to attend and grow up at has been a true blessing. RaeQuan wouldn’t be who he is today if not for all the experiences and lessons learned by being a Club kid.”