BIG BAY — This week, some of the Upper Peninsula’s best high school football players have spent time leading up to the U.P. Football All–Star Game this weekend. But their most important experience came on Thursday afternoon, off of the football field.

It’s a moment that both residents and guests look forward to every year. Thursday afternoon, the U.P. Football All–Stars arrived at Bay Cliff Health Camp for a day of fun.

“One of the biggest things for us during all star week is giving back to the communities,” said All-Star Game Organizer Todd Goldbeck. “This is a huge event for us, this is a signature event for the all star game. It’s really important for kids to know that we need to give back to our communities. This is really important, these kids go to their schools, and now they’re here. They’re kids that they look up to, and so now we can give back to them.”

After arriving, the campers give their guests a quick tour of the grounds. Less than 20 minutes later, it’s time for some fun. The campers learned the basics of the game, from hitting, to kicking, and most importantly having fun.

“I look forward to getting to know all the kids and helping them out, and it really touches home,” said Jarrett LaCasse, a fullback representing Rapid River High School. “I know a few kids from here. It just makes me feel really good…knowing we’re here for a good cause and just making those kids happy.”

“It’s just the coolest thing ever,” added Kingsford Cornerback Preston Strong. “We get to throw some footballs with them, they run through our tunnels, they run into the pads and they just love it. They’re having a blast. It really made our day to come here. There were some solid hits. We’ve got to get these kids on the field.”

And it’s a time for the campers to get some autographs.

“Today’s their day,” said Strong. “They’re the all stars. They’re asking for my autograph, but I should really be asking for theirs. It’s just the coolest experience.”

And although Saturday’s upcoming game is a big deal, for the players, this is the day that matters.

“Throughout the week we’ve been together as a team, bonding, but this bonding is something different,” said LaCasse.

“We get a lot more out of it than the Bay Cliff Campers do,” said Goldbeck. “At the end of the game on Saturday, nobody’s really talking about the game, everybody’s talking about how fun Bay Cliff was, and what a great opportunity it was, so for sure this is the most important part of the week for us.”