This past Wednesday, Mae M. Walters Elementary School was given a much needed face lift unlike any other. With help from the entire Miami Dolphins football team, coaching staff, and the Special Teams Volunteers, the old building was given a Miami Dolphins-themed renovation that will be sure to have the students excited when they return in the fall.
"They're gonna be so happy when they see the Dolphins colors," said Principal Milko Brito, "And that they have a nice place to come that looks nice and clean. We have new furniture in the front for the parents too, so everyone's going to be happy to come to a new school."
The neighborhood is a small one and the building definitely needed a lot of TLC to get it back up to par with the rest of the schools in Miami Dade County, and that played a significant part in Mae M. Walters winning the proverbial lottery and getting this Dolphins makeover.
“We wanted to look in our Hispanic community a little bit, look at schools that had a need, more of a real kind of community school,” said Mark Zaher, Director of Special Programs for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, “This is a home school. All the kids that live in this area kind of go to this school. It’s one of the oldest schools. So we just kind of looked at a few things and said, why don’t we throw a couple of schools out there, this being one that had a tremendous amount of need.”
The Special Teams volunteers (and Dolphins mascot TD) had already been working for a couple of hours by the time the Dolphins players and coaches arrived, but once they did, it didn't take long for them to jump in headfirst and start making headway.
Right after Principal Brito was presented with a commemorative Dolphins jersey by head coach Joe Philbin in honor of the event taking place, the players and coaches split into groups and tackled their assigned jobs. Those assignments included putting new furniture in the lobby, refurbishing the school's marquee, mulching and planting trees and shrubbery, painting benches and walls, building picnic tables and a vegetable garden as well as painting and furnishing a teacher's lounge.
In no time, almost every hallway had suddenly been infused with aqua and orange as the players filed in and started working.
"I went to a small elementary school, it was about two blocks from my house," quarterback Ryan Tannehill said when asked what it was like when he went to school, "I had a great experience there, but I don't remember any NFL teams coming to my school to revamp it."
What the Dolphins did that day was not an everyday occurrence by any stretch of the imagination, and Tannehill voiced how happy he was to be able to give back in such a big way.
"We love our community." said Tannehill. "We love the area we live. And to be able to give back, help a school that I think really needed it at this time. It's going to turn out really nice. I'm excited about the work we're doing."
Tannehill did landscaping for over an hour (don't worry Dolphins fans, he and all the other players are perfectly fine), while other players wound up grabbing paintbrushes and rollers and giving the walls and doors a fresh coat of paint.
“I haven’t painted since I was a little kid,” center Mike Pouncey said, “My assignment today is to make these walls as white as possible, and that’s what I’m doing. It feels like a shoulder workout, so I don’t know if it counts as a workout, but it feels like one.”
Cornerback Brent Grimes was also put on painting duty, and he was given a small paintbrush with which to do the more intricate detail work.
"I once painted a whole house with a brush this size in three hours." Grimes said. Whether he was kidding or not I'm not sure, but if the 5'10" corner can leap up in the air higher than he is tall and make a one-handed interception in midair, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
For defensive end Olivier Vernon, giving back has a special meaning, as he has mentioned on previous occasions how blessed he feels to be in the NFL.
“One thing being on the platform that everybody is on once you’re in the NFL, there’s certain things you’d like to do to give back." said Vernon. "You’ve got to count your blessings and the best thing to do is give the blessings back. I feel good as far as anything I can do to contribute. This is a great thing that we’re doing and I’m just happy to be here.”
While the day was clearly all about giving back to the community, head coach Joe Philbin pointed out how it also served to help things out on the football side of things in a way, as he felt doing events like this as a team built chemistry between the players and coaches.
"Sometimes it's easy to forget the impact that potentially you could have on somebody else." Philbin said. "The players are obviously very, very well known in this community, and if they can take a minute out of their busy schedules and do something together and contribute something that maybe can change the lives of 500 kids when they come into school next year in August, I think that's a real thing that's worth their time."
The players and the volunteers, along with the coaches and general manager Dennis Hickey, quickly managed to make to make some very significant headway before it was time for them to leave, but not before they took a group picture to commemorate the effort they put into the job.
All of the players seemed to enjoy working together and taking a day off from practice to help the community, and there wasn't a dry jersey to be seen no matter where you looked, which proved that everyone gave their all when it came to beautifying the old building.
Former Dolphins linebacker and current Dolphins Senior Director of Community Twan Russell summed up the day quite nicely with his brief message inside the auditorium while everyone was assembled.
“This is a great opportunity to leave your fingerprint on this community,” said Russell. “We’re leaving a legacy today.”
No truer words could have been spoken. Once again, the Dolphins have left their mark on the community, and it's only a matter of time before they do it again. The Dolphins motto for this year and last year is Stronger Together, and the Dolphins have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make that motto their legacy both on and off the field.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater