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Camp with a cause

More than four hundred high school football players, college players, coaches and volunteers convened on the USF intramural fields Sunday to participate in Lauren’s First and Goal Football Camp South in the name of sportsmanship and cancer research.

The camp and organization are named in honor of Lauren Loose, a 10-year-old brain tumor survivor who has been living with neurofibromatosis (a disease that causes tumors to grow in various parts in the brain) and Evan’s Syndrome (which causes antibodies in the blood to attack red blood cells and platelets) since she was 10 months old.

Her father, Lafayette College coach John Loose, started the organization in 2004 to raise research funds and promote awareness of pediatric brain cancer.

Lauren Loose could not attend the USF camp, but has a reputation among volunteers as a spry and articulate public speaker. At a camp in Easton, Pa., earlier this year, she addressed campers and thanked them for their participation.

This year, John Loose’s organization expanded to Florida with the help of USF offensive coordinator Greg Gregory, with whom Loose coached at Army.

Area high school football players had a chance to drill under the guidance of more than 60 college coaches and players, including USF football players George Selvie and Carlton Mitchell.

Countryside High School assistant coach Leo Govoni was also instrumental in bringing the camp to USF. His organization, the Center for Special Needs Trust Administration, issued a $25,000 grant to Lauren’s First and Goal, and Govoni volunteered his time as a coach.

“To see hundreds and hundreds of college coaches devote their time, fly in on their own dime, to teach kids how to play football, it’s just phenomenal,” Govoni said to Bay News 9.

Loose frames the camp as a “win-win” for all involved. High schools players are exposed to college coaches from around the nation and benefit from their instruction. Coaches get a look at Florida talent, and the money raised is donated to pediatric brain tumor research.

Loose said more than half a million dollars have been raised since 2004, and since no organization member earns a salary, the overwhelming majority of that money goes directly to research donations. The organization’s Web site boasts a 9 percent operation cost, but strives for a 100 percent financial stream directly to pediatric brain research.

“Our goal is for every dollar raised to benefit the children and improve their chance for a better tomorrow,” the Web site states.

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