Ravens visit schools, neighborhoods at heart of Baltimore riots

The NFL draft may be just hours away, but the Baltimore Ravens had other matters on their minds Thursday morning.

Their beloved city has faced some trying times this week, with the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody sparking protests, rioting, looting and mass arrests.

With that in mind, the Ravens sent two busloads of people -- including Coach John Harbaugh, quarterback Joe Flacco and legendary linebacker Ray Lewis -- to West Baltimore to help with the healing.

According to the team, 85 members of the Ravens organization, including 55 current and former players, were involved in the effort, which started with a stop at Matthew A. Hensen Elementary School to deliver boxes of food donated by Giant Food and the Maryland Food Bank.

Many players remained at Hensen to help students package the items and deliver them to residents affected by the recent events.

“When you see the Ravens, you see the Maryland Food Bank, you see members of the community stepping up, this is reflective of the true spirit of our city,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who also was on site. “It’s unfortunate that it takes a crisis such as we saw for our true spirit to come out. This is what Baltimore is about.”

Other Ravens walked to Frederick Douglass High School, where some students are said to have been involved in the ugly incidents that started at nearby Mondawmin Mall.

Harbaugh and Lewis addressed the students. "If you want to make real change, be the example of change," Lewis said.

The team stayed in the neighborhood for hours, eventually signing hats for students and community members. Quite a busy day, especially as the NFL approaches one of its most important weekends of the off-season.

“We’re a little bit removed, so it’s tough to really get a grip on what’s actually going on,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “But the main thing we can do is help clean up, and help put a smile on people’s faces, and that’s what we’re doing today.”

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