Dickinson State football players and cheerleaders brought joy to area youth on Tuesday afternoon as they coached and cheered at a flag football game between kids in third and sixth grade.

The Regional After School Program is an after school and summer program for kids, and unfortunately, this summer they haven’t been able to do as much as usual in the program due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

“We couldn’t do much because of COVID-19 regulations. We usually take the kids on field trips and we will go to Bismarck and the zoo,” said Jessica Aparicio, who works with the program. “We wanted to keep everything to a minimum this year, and we wanted to utilize Dickinson State and bring in football players and the cheer team so kids would have a field trip experience.”

Jace Kuylen runs with the ball during the flag football contest for kids on Tuesday, Aug. 4. (Jake Wright / The Dickinson Press)
Jace Kuylen runs with the ball during the flag football contest for kids on Tuesday, Aug. 4. (Jake Wright / The Dickinson Press)

Kids ran around without a worry in the world for a short time on Tuesday afternoon, and the experience made Reece Hoherz, a Dickinson State football player and coach for the game reminisce on days of the past.

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“It makes me feel like a little kid again watching these kids play,” he said. “I feel like I am in recess again. This makes me want them to have the opportunities I had growing up with football.”

He feels as if this game was a way for him to give back to the community and the kids of Dickinson. A lot of them watch the Blue Hawks on Saturdays in the fall, and he wanted to make a connection with them.

Jace Kuylen was one of the participants in the flag football contest, and the upcoming third grader was ecstatic at the chance to play with friends his age. He absolutely loved being coached by someone he sees as a role model.

“It was fun,” Kuylen said. “I had fun playing flag football and pulling their flags right off their belt.”

Aparicio hopes to make the game an annual event each summer so that all the kids in the program have something to look forward to.

“We just thought it would be nice for the kids, since we didn’t get to do much with them this summer. We wanted to bring in excitement and let them get to know a few of the Dickinson State football players…,” she said. “This is so nice because they don’t have to sign up or anything. It is available for them in the program.”