Casino Night fundraiser
7:30 p.m. Friday
at Mariani’s restaurant in Pembroke
Entry is $100 per person or $175 per couple, which includes an open bar, hors d’oeuvres, gaming tables, chips, and a silent auction. The event is for adults only, in party attire. Visit VontaLeach.com for tickets.
Football and Cheer Camp
8 a.m. Saturday
at Lumberton High School
The camp is free for athletes ages 6 to 16. Cheerleaders will work with Charlotte Hornets cheerleaders and football players will learn directly from NFL pros. Register in advance at VontaLeach.com.
LUMBERTON — For Vonta Leach, the summer of 2014 is shaping up a lot like the summer of 2013.
For the second straight summer the Rowland native and former South Robeson standout is in the midst of the NFL free agent market, hoping to draw the attention of a team once training camp closes in.
“It’s never easy going through free agency,” Leach said. “It’s just a waiting game. I probably won’t sign with a team until training camp.”
While the summer is becoming a waiting game, it doesn’t mean Leach is standing still. The NFL veteran and three time Pro-Bowl selection is working out daily while also taking the time to plan his annual camp for local boys and girls.
Leach will host the ninth-annual Vonta Leach Foundation Youth Football and Cheer Camp starting at 8 a.m. Saturday at Lumberton High School. The free camp for players and cheerleaders aged 6- to 16-years-old caps a weekend that includes the foundation’s second-annual casino night fundraiser, where adults aged 21 and up can play casino games among NFL stars and East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill.
Though Vonta faces the stresses of free agency, it’s not enough to interfere with either event.
“It’s not really any harder to do both,” Leach said. “The camp is very important to me and I want it to be successful.”
Leach said the camp has continue to grow since its first year, when 50 kids attended.
Per usual, the attendees of the camp will be learning and hearing from some of the best in the game. On the field, current and former NFL players will be helping teach kids, including Ramon Harewood, Terrance Cooper, Jay Ross, Derrick Hamilton, Jason Horton, Peter Warrick, William Henderson, Brian Rimpf, Quinton Coples and coaches Ruffin McNeill and Chick Harris, along with other stars who attended last year’s event. Cheerleaders will have the opportunity to learn routines from the Charlotte Hornets cheer squad.
“We will teach the kids basic football drills,” he said. “We will also take them through the combine drills. Show the kids what it takes.”
The casino night is the second that Vonta has hosted and is being moved to Mariani’s Restaurant in Pembroke, where it will run from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. The foundation raised more than $10,000 raised during the inaugural event after all expenses were paid and Leach hopes to do better the second time around.
“Last year was the first year,” Leach said. “This year there is a bigger buzz around the event.”
Leach is expecting a better result in part because of a reduction in costs, including a decreased amount of spending on advertising. It retain’s last year’s signature flair, which includes a required party attire, an open bar, a silent auction, hors d’oeuvres and the chance to play casino games with NFL stars.
Admission is $100 per person or $175 per couple, with tickets available online. The event contributes to the overall goal of Leach’s foundation, which is to help promote the healthy growth of kids through education and recreation.
“The camp is free, so this is another way to help support the camp,” Leach said.
Leach said he enjoys giving kids within the community an experience he never got.
“My goal is to help change peoples lives,” Leach said. “I wasn’t able to attend a camp with pros when I was growing up.”
That is why the camp is so important to Leach, and that is why the goal is to give kids an event they will remember for the rest of their lives.
“Kids need to expect to learn something,” Leach said. “It’s a life changing experience. I just want people to come out, have a good time and learn something from the guys who will be there.”