Past the End Zone – Football Passes Along Holiday Cheer

By Gehrig Parker | Posted 1/20/2021

As we close the book on another year and begin a new one, it’s only natural to look at the year ahead with great expectations – a blank slate for many of us in different ways. Especially when considering the year that 2020 was, a year full of disruption that took some of life’s simplest pleasures away from us.

While it’s important we move forward, it’s equally imperative that we reflect on the good that did take place, and we need to look no further than the football community for evidence of that.

Though seasons were canceled or postponed until 2021 throughout the country, that didn’t stop those in and around the game from embodying the inherent values that make football great.

Let’s revisit some of our holiday favorites.

No Turkey Bowl, No Problem

For the first time in six years, there was no flag football game or adult flag tournament as part of the Rainier Beach Turkey Bowl Week of Service in Seattle, Washington. Though the marquee attraction for many participants, it didn’t deter Cortez Charles and his team of youth and community partners from making this year’s three-day event as impactful as ever.

“This year, instead of us being able to have our normal schedule, we’re completing three days of service, which is absolutely phenomenal,” Charles told the South Seattle Emerald in November.

With no football being played, Charles and his team were able to expand their distribution of service, providing nearly 1,000 meal and hygiene packages to new communities, a tradition he hopes continues to grow.

“That’s what it’s about,” Charles explained. “Long after I’m gone, these [kids] have the blueprint. They know how to make it happen. I believe that these are seeds being planted that will grow for generations.”

13-Year-Old Shows Off Blanket Coverage

Every December, 13-year-old Georgia native C.J. Matthews hosts his own charitable flag football game – the Giving Bowl – designed to raise money for a charity he started called “Blankies 4 My Buddies.”

Typically, the game serves as a hub for people to drop off food and blankets that are then dispersed to those in need throughout South Atlanta during the holidays.

The pandemic might’ve canceled the game but not Matthews’ mission.

“I know there's a lot of kids in the world and a lot of kids in my community who are on the streets or in shelter homes not getting enough food to eat or are lonely,” C.J. told CBS News in December.

Instead of the game, Matthews held a drive-thru donation event that resulted in 150 donated blankets. Paired with cash donations through a GoFundMe account, he reached his goal of comforting 1,000 kids this winter, something he hopes inspires other kids.

“I want them to know that comfort and kindness is anything anyone can do at any time or any place.”

Like Riding A Bike

For four years, Corbin (Ky.) High School football-playing seniors received strong support from their community, so this holiday they decided to pay it forward.

Together with the Corbin Redhound Football Boosters, they helped deliver new bicycles and other gifts for Christmas to 40 kids throughout the community.

“We started off talking about doing like 10 bicycles and our community, you know how it is with our football folks, it really grew to 40 bicycles here at the primary and elementary schools,” Coach Tom Greer said to the Corbin Times-Tribune.

The players’ highlight: seeing the smiles of kids receiving a new bike for Christmas coupled with the opportunity to give back to a community that has given them so much.

“We’re just giving these bikes to these kids because the community as a whole has done so much for us these past four years, we thought we should do something for them,” senior Joshua Oliver said. “I think it’s a good thing to show them that we care about them as much as they care about us.”


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