The Denver Broncos and the Denver Nuggets showed Wednesday night that holiday giving transcends sports.
Broncos safety T.J. Ward called a huddle in the Denver sports community, and gathered teammates Kayvon Webster, Terrance Knighton, and Nuggets stars Kenneth Faried and Ty Lawson.
Their play call, which they perfectly executed: Take 31 children from North Middle School on a holiday shopping spree at Target in Aurora, Colorado.
“You’re taller than I thought you were,” one child shyly said to 6’8″ Faried.
Faried lifted his hand to chest level, and made the child jump for a high-five.
Pro athletes, Santa Claus, and an elf gathered to host families who are in need as part of Christmas ReWard’s with Friends, a program within the T.J. Ward Foundation.
“A lot of these families have very basic needs,” North Middle School principal Geraldo De La Garza said. “They need clothing, food, and just a lot of the things that we take for granted. Things we need everyday for survival.”
Teachers from the school selected seven families to receive $100 Target gift cards, totaling $3,100. Then those families got to shop with the big guys.
“We decided since we have athletes in the same town, that this would be a great opportunity to pull everybody together, and kind of intermingle and help people that are from the local community,” Ward’s manager, Jacob Wallace, said of the foundation.
Ward, a native of the San Francisco area, is in his first season with the Broncos. He was drafted in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns. The T.J. Ward Foundation, which aims to empower youth in underprivileged communities, has roots in the Bay Area, Cleveland, and now Denver.
“Just growing up and seeing some of the stuff that I’ve seen,” Ward said of why he started the foundation. “I was always taught at a young age to give back to the people who have done things for you and for the people who haven’t.”
This was the fourth year of Christmas ReWard’s with Friends.
“Get whatever you want on us,” Ward told families prior to hitting the aisles.
“I love seeing the smiles on their faces,” Lawson said.
“It’s a strong foundation for the community,” Faried added while helping bring toys down off the top shelves.
As children grabbed monster trucks, stuffed animals, and basketballs, the guardians in attendance had reason to smile, not a Mile High but a Mile Wide.
“I want to help everyone have a smoother path to get where they’re going in life,” Lawson reflected. “That’s what helped me as I was growing up.”
Whether it’s off the turf or off the hardwood, an athlete’s backing can make a huge difference.