Eagles star players visit West Philadelphia Panthers youth football team and cheerleaders

With many kids falling victim to gun violence in the city, the Philadelphia Eagles are stepping up and serving as role models for the city's youth. 

Youth football players and cheerleaders of the West Philadelphia Panthers, packed the gym at Shepard Rec Center on Tuesday night for a surprise from some of the Eagles star players and SWOOP.  

In August, multiple shots were fired outside the Shepard Rec Center, leaving five people injured. A.J. Brown and Miles Sanders came out to show support for the young athletes as they work to make the youth feel more comfortable amid the growing gun violence across the city.

"Tragedy happened here, broke my heart," said Brown. 

RELATED: Philadelphia playground shooting: Police release new video of suspect chase that ends in crash

The visit from the Eagles is part of the 2022 Eagles Care Community. The team was joined by Open Door Abuse Awareness and Prevention Inc. (ODAAP) to lead discussions about character development and violence prevention.  

The Eagles anti-violence message to the kids is very clear: you have to work hard, make sacrifices, and listen to your parents.

Sanders comforted the kids by relating his own experiences to theirs. He said he knows what it's like to be in their shoes.

"I came from the same background as you," Sanders said. "I'm kind of used to stuff like this happening. I know what it takes to beat the odds. 


SEPTA announces new safety plan, aims to address the city's vulnerable population

Philadelphia superintendent announces findings after 100-day listening tour

Dozens of shelter animals rescued from Hurricane Ian arrive in Delaware, ready for adoption

Brown even opened up about his own loved ones that he lost to gun violence. 

"I lost friends. I lost family, making wrong decisions, some ending up dying, some going to jail. But I knew I didn't want that for myself," he said. 

The players' words of wisdom resonated with the young crowd with many of them feeling inspired to make a change within their own communities. 

"I don't want to be in the hood. I don't want to be in the street. I want to focus on football and stuff like that," said 13-year-old, Amun Smith. 

The kids were also joined by their parents, who say they were moved by the players' words, too. 

"The kids really needed to hear this," said Nashe Freeman. "No matter what goes on around them, what goes on, they can make it out just like they did."

Former football coach and founder of ODAAP, Valencia Peterson lead the discussion with the players. She says all she wanted was for the kids to leave with the mentality that there's always something better than violence. 

The kids ended the night with some photos and then, of course, the iconic Eagles chant.