Ryan Lannon didn't know what to expect as he approached the entrance to the Ron Burton Training Village (RBTV).
The professional hockey player had participated in other events organized by the Corey C. Griffin Foundation, and he had heard about RBTV, but he figured it would be like any other summer enrichment program. There would be a football field, maybe a baseball field and a basic dorm, and that would be it.
"The moment I pulled onto the grounds," Lannon said, "it blew my mind."
He saw the fields, as well as beautiful gardens and manicured lawns. But what shocked him most were the kids themselves and the maturity they showed.
"I was impressed by how mature and polite and interesting they were," Lannon said. "Some of these kids were 10, 11 and 12 years old, and they had great handshakes, made eye contact and asked how you were doing. They were little adults in kids' bodies."
Lannon was at RBTV along with representatives of the Corey C. Griffin Foundation to interact with the kids and see how RBTV is helping their personal growth. At the same time, the visit was an opportunity for Lannon to see the impact the Corey C. Griffin Foundation is having in honor of his late friend.
"Corey's family and closest friends knew who he was and what he was passionate about," Lannon said, "and they've been able to keep his memory, honor and spirit alive in a way that totally fits what he did."
Through education, spiritual and fitness programs, RBTV participants build self-esteem, learn moral values, experience racial harmony and acquire leadership skills. The program inspires dreams of purpose, hope and success in those who may have otherwise fallen through the cracks.
One of the hallmarks of the RBTV is that every morning, campers wake up at 4:30 a.m. to embark on a seven-mile run. When Lannon heard this, he found himself more than impressed. He was motivated.
"The day after I visited Ron Burton Training Village, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and did a little run around my neighborhood," Lannon said, "not because I'm an early riser or because I'm a big runner, but I thought if these kids can get up and run that early, why can't I be more productive with my day."
Today, Lannon is training and working as a skating coach in Cape Cod as he prepares to return to Europe, where he's played professionally the past two years. As he trains, he keeps Corey's Kids and the Ron Burton Training Village in his mind.
"It was great to see how these kids are given an opportunity they might not otherwise have," Lannon said. "It inspired me to be more committed to my goals. It really was a special day."