NORTH SMITHFIELD – When high school senior, wide receiver and cornerback Zackary Kerrigan hit the field during his co-op team’s season last fall, he played beside some of the same friends and teammates as when he first learned the sport at the age of five.
Next year, Kerrigan will begin a new chapter of his football career, as he plays for Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts while studying health sciences, thanks, in part, to a football scholarship to the school.
It’s a story that the athlete himself says shows the impact a great youth sports program can have on the course of a child’s life. And now, Kerrigan hopes to give back to a program that’s had a lifelong influence on everything from his relationships, to his future goals.
Kerrigan has planned a “powderpuff” game for Friday, April 28, with girls from both Lincoln High School and North Smithfield High School to compete in an 11v11 flag game. The event will raise funds for North Smithfield Xpress Football & Cheer, a program serving youth from the town and surrounding communities, providing many young athletes their first experience with the sport.
Currently serving more than 175 players and cheerleaders from the Blackstone Valley, the program is open to kids age 4 through 14 – and Kerrigan played every year that he was eligible.
“What made my experience so special through Xpress was the people that I was around,” Kerrigan told NRI NOW. “The relationships that I built through Xpress I will never forget, and I am still very much involved in all the relationships/friendships I made back then today.”
The high school senior noted he’s even had some of the same coaches while playing on the North Smithfield/Mount Saint Charles Academy co-op team.
It’s a benefit cultivated somewhat intentionally by the non-profit Xpress program. With the motto, “One Team, One Family,” program officials consider support for the communities and families they serve a critical component to their overall mission.
“Our prevailing philosophy is based on a belief in the guiding principles to prioritize safe play, broad skill, athletic development, teamwork, and sportsmanship over winning,” notes the Xpress mission statement. “All board members, coaches, and program volunteers serve as role models and accept responsibility for creating an environment that emphasizes teaching the core values of being safe, hard work, respect, inclusion, commitment, perseverance, responsibility and accountability, family, and community.”
Xpress Football Coordinator Gino Olaes is urging local families to support Kerrigan’s project and the program, and attend the Friday game.
“This is also great opportunity for families and kids to get together for a night and reconnect on the off season as well and have a bit of fun at the same time,” Olaes said. “We are thankful to this young man for thinking of Xpress and impressed by his strong character at such a young age. His future is bright.”
For Kerrigan, the event will be the culmination of months of hard work and organization. In addition to getting commitment from the players, the senior has tapped on volunteers from the community to serve as referees, announcers, scorekeepers, admissions staff, concessions staff, and more. He also served as assistant coach for the JV team as part of the senior project, a graduation requirement at the school.
“It was a great experience being around the kids, watching them grow and helping them do so,” he said.
“The planning of my powderpuff game has been a long hard process, but I got lots of support from Xpress to help me make this event the best possible,” Kerrigan said. “I am so grateful for the support from my community.”
“All proceeds from this game will be donated to the Xpress football and cheer organization to show my appreciation for everything they did for me and other athletes just like me at a young age,” he added.
The game will be held at North Smithfield High School on the turf football field on Friday, April 28, starting at 6 p.m. Admission is $5. To learn more about Xpress visit https://xpressfootball.squadfusion.com/about