Edgerrin James' free camp growing once again

In its second year at its new location, Edgerrin James' youth football camp is expecting a bigger turnout than last summer. But there's still room for more kids to sign up, organizers of the free event said.

The Edgerrin James Foundation Youth Football Camp is expected to bring about 600 kids from around the state to Ave Maria's North Park on Monday. The event, now in its fifth year in Collier County, is free to kids ages 6-18.

Last year around 500 children came to the camp its first time in Ave Maria. James, the former NFL All-Pro running back, started the camp in his hometown Immokalee in 2009. After the 2012 event was canceled due to maintenance on the facilities, the camp was moved to Ave Maria in 2013.

"We're expecting more people this year," said Karen Mingo, a project manager with James' foundation. "Last year we changed to a different location. It's a very nice facility, a very nice area. We had great support from the Immokalee and Naples areas. It should be even better this year."

After a year off and a change of venue, the camp's enrollment could creep back to the levels it enjoyed in Immokalee. The event hosted about 1,000 kids in 2010 and nearly 1,200 in 2011.

Foundation program director Yhonsha Rue said 200 kids have registered for the event. However, that doesn't include the charter buses the foundation is bringing in packed with kids from the Orlando and Miami areas.

Several high school football teams from South and Central Florida also are bringing their own buses, Rue said. Many high school teams come just for the 7-on-7 tournament hosted by the camp each year.

James, who played 11 seasons in the NFL for three teams, runs the camp and brings along some of his famous football friends to help coach. In the past, NFL players Reggie Wayne and Clinton Portis have been at the camp, along with super agent Drew Rosenhaus.

The list of this year's coaches isn't finalized, Rue said. Members of the James family, who help run the foundation, will be there. James' brother Jeffrey James, and cousins Javarris James, Walter James and Dedrin Smith all will be instructors. Each played football at Immokalee High School.

"Edgerrin's goal is to give back to the community that helped him," Rue said. "Kids can look forward to learning football and agility techniques. The focus is to get kids active in a safe environment."

Anyone wishing to attend the free camp can register on the Edgerrin James Foundation and Charities Inc. Facebook page. Registration the day of the event begins at 8 a.m., while the camp begins at 9.

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