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June 25, 2011

McClain resolved to help rebuilding process

TUSCALOOSA | That Le'Ron McClain is from Tuscaloosa was more than enough for the former University of Alabama fullback to do whatever he could to aid his hometown's tornado victims.

That the fifth-year NFL Baltimore Raven was not only in Tuscaloosa but also in the storm path at the time made his mission even more clear.

McClain was at his condominium near Midtown Village on April 27 when the tornado cut a massive swath through the city, huddled in is closet like hundreds of others.

"It was a life-changing experience for me. We saw it coming right through," McClain said. "I think it was on Hargrove when we finally got in my closet. I had to get out of here that first weekend to just clear my head. It bothered me. But we came up with a game plan to get some relief into Tuscaloosa. We've been going to various cities organizing food drives and trying to bring some smiles back to Tuscaloosa."

McClain held his annual football camp, free to children ages 5-18, at Echols Middle School on Saturday morning. With help from former UA defensive linemen Marcell Dareus and Terrence Cody as camp counselors (McClain and Cody are Ravens teammates), McClain hosted more than 200 kids for the four-hour clinic. McClain said the third annual camp has always been free, and said he has no plans to charge in the future.

"A lot of these kids were probably affected or had family affected." McClain said. "... My message is just to take advantage of every opportunity you have in life. You don't always get a lot of opportunities, so work your hardest."

McClain's worked with Tuscaloosa Relief and helped organize a donation effort in Baltimore. Several other professional athletes joined the effort, including Ravens Ray Rice and Michael Oher. New York Knicks basketball star Carmelo Anthony allowed McClain's "Baltimore for Bama Relief" event to be hosted at the Carmelo Anthony Youth Development Center in Baltimore.

McClain said one of his aunts lost her home in the tornado, but none of his family lost their lives. As for his hometown, he is resolved to help throughout the rebuilding process.

"It's a minor setback for a major comeback," McClain said. "I know I can't bring back houses or lives, but I know I can make a difference."

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase.goodbread@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0196.

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