As music played and smoke drifted from meat cooking on grills, at least 50 people gathered in the courtyard of the Patterson Houses in Mott Haven on Saturday, Aug. 31 to greet former professional boxing champion Iran Barkley, 59, and his nephew Saquon Barkley, 22, running back for the New York Giants. Iran Barkley and Saquon Barkley were there to give away hundreds of backpacks to school children at the Patterson Houses. Iran Barkley grew up in the Patterson Houses and both athletes are seen as members of the community.
While both Barkleys posed for pictures and signed autographs, people ate food from the grills and waited for their turn to meet the athletes.
“It gives the children new inspirations and positive mindsets,” said Gary Brock, 64, a local boxer. “They’re here just to show you that they haven’t forgotten the community and the people.”
Iran and Saquon were joined by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. who also talked with residents and posed for pictures. He said that while public housing such as the Patterson Houses have been neglected by the city government, having the two athletes return to give back offered young Patterson residents hope.
“This development has produced champions,” said Diaz Jr. He continued that even though there is still much work to be done in the neighborhood, kids can look to the athletes as role models and that, “the sky is the limit.”
After the meet and greet about 100 parents and children stood in line outside of the Patterson Community Center to meet the athletes and receive their free backpacks along with a few cans of food.
“This was a really good experience,” said Dean Luban, 15. “It was pretty cool to see an athlete on Saquon’s level and because he plays for a hometown team, New York Giants, it probably means a lot to the other kids as an inspiration to be an athlete like him.”
Parents and grandparents in attendance were also excited about the event. “We are ecstatic,” said Cynthia Ford, 49, who brought her nine-year-old granddaughter to the giveaway. Ford grew up in the Patterson Houses and appreciated the athletes for returning to their home. “It’s awesome to see someone from the neighborhood or the family from the neighborhood come back to see that anything is possible in life.”