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Challenged Child and Friends revels in Falcons' visit
Ayana Lupoli-Rojas looks up at Zinger at Challenged Child and Friends. Next to Ayana is Kaya Grace McDowell. - photo by Tom Reed

Screams of excitement filled the air Wednesday afternoon at Challenged Child and Friends.

Several Atlanta Falcons football players spent Wednesday afternoon playing games with the children at the nonprofit education center in Gainesville.

The kids were very enthusiastic about the chance to play with Tony Gilbert, Keith Zinger, Sam Baker, Michael Butterworth and Mike Schneck, grabbing the players by the legs and tugging on them to get their attention.

Established in 1983, Challenged Child is dedicated to helping Northeast Georgia families who have children with disabilities. The center has worked with the Atlanta Falcons for 10 years, bringing fun and smiles to children at the center.

"Anybody is drawn to these kids," said Challenged Child Executive Director David Earnest.

Well, the kids certainly were drawn to the players, once they got over the shock of how big they are.

"We are so much bigger, they might be scared to begin with but they just want to have a good time," Gilbert said.

Wednesday was the first time Gilbert, a linebacker in his first season with the Falcons, spent time with students at Challenged Child.

It was hard to separate the kids from the players Wednesday afternoon once they got caught up in games of bowling, basketball and catch.

Several children bowled with Butterworth, Baker and Schneck in one room, using plastic pins and bowling balls.

In another room, Gilbert and Zinger tossed Winnie the Pooh balls with other kids.

There were no footballs in sight, but Challenged Child and Friends definitely is a fan of the Falcons. An Atlanta Falcons poster was pinned up on the wall, and the students were dressed in red and black, Falcons’ team colors.

"Today is all about having fun and playing with the kids," said Gail Schneider, a fundraising coordinator for Challenged Child.

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