DANVILLE — Growing up in the Danville area, the Edmunds brothers — Tremaine, Terrell and Trey — visited the Danville Family YMCA for years before heading off to college and ultimately playing in the NFL.
This summer, they came back and helped to put Danville in the national spotlight.
“Now that the boys are in the NFL, they wanted to give back to their hometown,” said Sarah Folmar, CEO of the Danville Family YMCA.
Teaching the importance of water safety to a group of children, the brothers donned their swim trunks and jumped in the wellness center’s year-round pool.
Terrell and Trey Edmunds play for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Terrell as a safety and Trey as a running back. Tremaine is a linebacker for the Buffalo Bills.
Their father, Ferrell Edmunds, coached all three at Dan River High School before they played at Virginia Tech, including together in 2015 before Trey Edmunds transferred to the University of Maryland.
Terrell and Tremaine made NFL history in 2018 when they were the first pair of brothers taken in the opening round of the draft. Trey had preceded them, spending 2017 with New Orleans, and Ferrell had been a two-time Pro Bowl tight end while playing for Miami and Seattle in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The partnership between the Edmunds trio and the riverside gym first started as a way to increase awareness for the facility’s annual campaign, which raises funds for scholarships to be used at the YMCA.
Each year, the workout location offsets the cost of memberships, summer camp fees and swimming lessons for families in need.
“They understand the importance of giving back and they understand the importance of how everyone needs the Y,” Folmar said. “Kids need a safe place to go after school and kids need a safe place during the summer.”
This year, local videographer Josh Lucia filmed a segment for the facility’s annual campaign, which included the three football players.
The local Y sent the video to the YMCA of the USA.
“We said, ‘This is an amazing story,’ ” Folmar said. “ ‘These are three NFL players who are giving back to their hometown Y and their community.’ ”
The national YMCA chose the small town’s video as one of the best in the country. Headquartered in Chicago, the YMCA chose to feature the Danville location as part of their My Y series.
From actors to comedians to professional athletes, the My Y series includes a variety of people from a vast array of entertainment genres.
“It’s basically well-known faces from different backgrounds and from different communities telling their story of how the Y’s impacted them,” Folmar said.
The Edmunds brothers starred in the series’ seventh video.
“The My Y series has videos from all different communities,” Folmar said. “You’ve got Los Angeles. You’ve got New York. You’ve got Harlem. And you’ve got Danville.”
The Danville video focused predominantly on safety around water, a skill many children and adults learn at the YMCA.
“They just wanted to promote the fact that the YMCA has programs here in our community that can help people of all ages learn to swim,” Folmar said. “Our program teaches swimming lessons and we also have safety around the water. That’s what they came to our community and YMCA to do, to help kids with the safety around water program.”
When the Edmunds brothers walked into the swimming area, the children could hardly believe their eyes.
“They were so excited. They really were,” Folmar said. “To see three NFL players from their hometown, it was so exciting. The looks on their faces were priceless.”
Greg Hairston, sports and wellness director at the YMCA, helped conduct the water safety lesson alongside the Edmunds brothers.
“It was a great experience because they are pillars in our community,” Hairston said. “For them to come back and be there and show the kids how to use those techniques, it really means a lot.”
In the class, children jumped off of the side of the pool into the water, went down to the bottom and pushed off, turned as they returned to the surface and finally reached for the wall. The practice helped students glean knowledge on what to do if they fell into a body of water where they could touch the bottom.
“You want to make sure when you’re being safe around water, that you know the potential accidents that you can have around water,” Hairston said. “Those are the main steps for when you’re starting off with water safety, even if you can’t swim. A lot of kids don’t like to get their face wet, but having them jump in and get accustomed to that, if they’re comfortable jumping in and doing that technique and that sequence, then they’re more likely to take a deeper step into learning how to swim farther out.”
Having the local NFL players come to the YMCA and interact with the kids didn’t only leave a lasting legacy in the hearts of the children.
The brothers’ presence also boosted the annual campaign. The Danville YMCA set out with a goal to raise $60,000, but closed the campaign with $80,000.
“The Edmunds brothers are great role models to the children in our community. Having them tell their story of how they learned to swim at the YMCA helps children get excited about learning themselves and knowing how to be safe around water,” said Courtney Harris, YMCA annual campaign administrator. “The fact that the Edmunds brothers are encouraging safety around water nationwide is amazing.”
The video started streaming last month and is available on YouTube, Facebook and other online platforms.
“You can go on our social media and see that people have really reacted,” Folmar said. “We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from other YMCAs across the country. A lot of my colleagues have reached out to say, ‘Great video. What a great story. Thanks for all you do for your community.’ ”
More than just a pool, or a gym or just a wellness center, the Danville Family YMCA opens its doors to all — from NFL players to people working out to cardio-based dance routines.
“The YMCA is an open and engaging environment. The doors are open to people from all walks of life, regardless of their ability to pay, regardless of their status. It’s just such a diverse community. Actually, the Y is sort of a community within a community,” Folmar said. “It’s just a great place for everyone to come and come together and work on all of their life skills, healthy living and youth development.”
The Associated Press and The Roanoke Times contributed to this report.