Slideshow: Hometown Huddle with the New England Patriots!

300 kids from New England communities had a chance to live a dream come true last week as they ran onto the turf of Gillette Stadium to toss, kick, and punt footballs with nine members of the New England Patriots at the annual Hometown Huddle. Part of United Way’s national partnership with the NFL, which celebrates 40 years this year, the Hometown Huddle brings together youth with their NFL idols for a healthy dose of outdoor activity and mentoring.

This year, the event was held in collaboration with Stop & Shop’s Healthy Kids Summit and featured Patriots’ Devin McCourty joining Stop & Shop nutritionists to talk to the kids about healthy eating habits. Afterwards, the groups went through a series of drills each coached by a Patriots player, where the pros had as much fun as the kids tossing footballs and telling jokes.

See them in action in a fantastic Patriots video on their website and check out more photos in our Facebook album.

United Way Team NFL ambassador Matthew Slater was also on hand to toss footballs and talk about the importance of engaging kids in healthy, active activities. As our United Way rep, Slater walks the walk when it comes to volunteering and is helping us recruit education volunteers to read, tutor, or mentor. Team Slater has 135 volunteers pledged so far!

Today’s youth have a lot more access to electronics, video games, stuff we didn’t have growing up so it’s great for us players to be able to help enforce the message that it’s important to get outside, play with your peers, and get a little dirty. – Matthew Slater

We were joined by youth from United Way partner agencies the Boy Scouts’ Boston Minuteman Council, Citizens Schools’ Browne School in Chelsea, South Shore Stars from Quincy, West End House from Allston, and Seacoast Youth Services in New Hampshire.