Redskins training camp starts this month, but, back in May, the players donned their burgundy-and-gold jerseys and tossed around the football for an arguably more important reason. They welcomed more than 200 elementary school students from military and civilian families to Redskins Park in Ashburn for United in Play, an annual event hosted by former Redskin Derrick Dockery and his wife, Emma.
The couple founded Yellow Ribbons United when Emma’s brother, David, died serving in Afghanistan in 2012. The DC-based nonprofit strives to bridge the gap between military and civilian life with inclusive events and social action that expresses appreciation for the sacrifices military families make. Yellow Ribbons United puts a special emphasis on children in military families through events such as United in Play. On Armed Forces Day, the kids were treated to a day of games, activities and team-building exercises led by 22 members of the Redskins’ rookie class.
“My brother paid the ultimate sacrifice in his service to our country,” says Emma, whose father retired as a colonel after serving in the United States Army for 30 years. “As my dad always said, ‘In the military, you don’t make friends, you make family.’ That’s something that was never lost on me. I can’t pay it back, but I am committed to paying it forward. The families of our brave men and women in uniform deserve that.”
This was the sixth year for the family-friendly football event and, according to Derrick, the players love it just as much as the kids.
“It’s an honor to give back to military families across the region,” he says. “As a player, I always enjoyed the chance to connect with military children and I know these guys do as well. Nothing can unite kids from different backgrounds quite like sports.”