Browns make an impact in Cleveland

Posted Dec 25, 2012

Throughout the holiday season, the Cleveland Browns made an impact in the community with various initiatives.

When the Cleveland Browns are not preparing for their next opponent by studying film or practicing on the field, they are involved in the community with a focus on improving the lives of others.

During the holiday season, the Browns held several events designed at providing toys and coats for children at Christmas.

Last Tuesday evening, the Browns surprised 100 children from all 20 of the City of Cleveland’s recreation centers with new toys at the team’s annual Toy Extravaganza. The children had a pizza party in the home team locker room and defensive lineman Frostee Rucker talked to them about giving before he and his teammates surprised them with brand new toys purchased by the players.

Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson made a significant donation to purchase the toys, including Xbox 360s, televisions and drum kits.

“This was an opportunity to come out and see the kids being affected by getting a gift before Christmas,” quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “It’s fun interacting with these kids. To see all the kids smiling and lighten their spirits was good. We’re very fortunate to be in the position that we’re in. If we can help, it’s our duty to do that. It’s what the holidays are all about, especially for the little ones.”

Prior to the final home game of the season, the Browns held their annual Touchdown for Tots toy drive in conjunction with the United States Marine Corps Reserve, where fans donated more than $24,000 and 1,307 toys for children in the Cleveland community.

Individually, wide receiver Joshua Cribbs, left tackle Joe Thomas, safety T.J. Ward and tight end Benjamin Watson held shopping events for children and parents as families prepared for the holidays.

Watson and his wife, Kirsten, took 25 parents and legal guardians on a shopping spree for their children. Through their One More Foundation, the Watsons were able to reach out to the City Mission and affect the lives of nearly 100 Cleveland-area children.

“It’s a privilege and an honor,” Watson said. “Something my parents taught me when I was young was you always give when you can. It’s just a blessing that my wife and I are able to bless other people.”

Watson said making children smile is great, but he really enjoyed watching the parents go through the store and pick out toys and games for the holiday season.

“They’re the ones that labor day-in and day-out and they don’t know if they’re going to be able to get what their kids want for Christmas,” Watson said. “It’s important to see them and let them be the heroes in their kids’ lives, and just encourage them and tell them they’re doing a good job. It may be tough right now, it may be hard. Everybody goes through their different trials, but they’re doing a good job. I tell them thank you for the sacrifices that they make for their kids.”

Thomas hosted a “Shop with a Pro” event for children associated with the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Services at the Dick’s Sporting Goods store at Great Northern Mall. The 30 children, ranging in age from eight to 16 years old, each received $200 and shopped with Browns players. All of the children and their families had been affected by disasters in the last month.

“With pro athletes, I think it’s their duty to give back to the communities that they’re in,” Thomas said. “Being able to partner with the American Red Cross and give these kids a Christmas is just a great feeling.

“There are a lot of great events that go on throughout the year, but this is one of those events that’s more rewarding for the players than the kids. We’re giving kids a Christmas a lot of them might not be able to get. It’s just a really fun opportunity to spend the night with some kids and make all their Christmas wishes come true.”

Cribbs and 12 of his Browns teammates participated in his annual “Shop with a Jock” event in Strongsville. The 13 Browns players took 50 children from the Cleveland Christian Home on a $100 shopping spree.

“It’s important because it’s for the kids and what better time than Christmas,” Cribbs said. “It’s the Christmas season and the kids shouldn’t be without toys. All the players came out to help make sure that these kids have a good Christmas, get all the toys and get the joy they need around Christmas.

“It’s all about the community. I’m grateful to be a part of it and help. We should all take a lesson from this. The players do as well. We know how important it is to perform off the field, as well as on the field. We’re performing off the field and it’s a great thing that we can do to give back to the community.”

Ward held a “Christmas ReWard” event that gave 35 children from the Applewood Centers a holiday shopping spree.

“It’s the holiday season and all kids aren’t as fortunate as we were growing up and as fortunate as we are now,” Ward said. “It’s just another way to give back and show them people really do care about them. During this season, it’s important for kids that don’t have everything and are going through a lot of things a time of happiness and joy like everyone else.

“I just like to see people happy. Whenever I can get the opportunity to make somebody else happy, make somebody else smile, even if it is just for a day and make it last for as long as possible, I feel a lot better.”

While several players held shopping events, defensive back Usama Young started a coat drive through Shoes and Clothes for Kids. Young and his teammates distributed the coats, as well as hats and gloves, to 50 children at the St. Martin de Porres Family Center. Young came up with the idea for “Defensive Backs Give Back” after a conversation with Renee Harvey, the vice president of community outreach for the Browns.

“I asked Renee, ‘Where can we donate clothes and get an area that it’s needed?’ Young said. “I’m in Tremont. I live right by downtown and I see children walking to the school bus wearing t-shirts in the wintertime, wearing sweatshirts with no hats and no gloves. I talked to a few guys and said, ‘Hey, I’m doing this coat drive.’ I partnered with Shoes and Clothes for Kids and we got it together.”

Punter Reggie Hodges and his teammates shared a holiday dinner with 50 individuals from the Men’s Homeless Shelter in Cleveland at the Legends Club at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

“This is an event for guys who have been in and out of homeless shelters,” Hodges said. “We just wanted to share the love of Christ with them. Our heart behind this was to show them some love, show them that people haven’t forgotten them and that they deserve a good time too.”

Members of the Browns Women’s Organization joined Browns front office staff and lent a hand during the Salvation Army’s annual Christmas Distribution at the organization’s Distribution Warehouse in Cuyahoga Heights. The BWO, Browns staff and Salvation Army distributed coats, toys and hats to nearly 3,000 families. Over the course of the two-day event, more than 7,000 children were given toys, coats and hats.

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