In recognition of his efforts in the Cleveland community, Thomas has been selected as the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year for 2012. The winner of the NFL Man of the Year Award will be announced during Super Bowl week in New Orleans later this season.
Thomas has given his time to many charitable endeavors, including serving as the co-chair of both the Taste of the Browns in support of the Cleveland Foodbank and the 17th annual Deck the House event to benefit the Providence House, the team’s local courage house that takes care of children newborn to six years old that are at risk for abuse or neglect.
“The Cleveland community’s extremely special to me,” Thomas said. “It’s a community that’s very much like the community I grew up in, in Milwaukee. To be able to be part of a Midwest community with such fantastic people has really been a special part of my career. I just really like getting totally involved with community service and charities in this area because I have really fallen in love with the people.”
Thomas said he chose to support Providence House because of the work they do in helping children, something he cares about deeply. Thomas knows first-hand the importance of helping children, as his wife, Annie, volunteers at Providence House throughout the season.
“I’ve always been really passionate about kids’ charities and children’s charities and the Providence House is one of those charities that just fits perfectly with the mission that I have as far as the charities I support,” Thomas said. “I’m very proud to be up here as a co-chair for the Providence House and the event.”
Thomas has joined with former Browns defensive lineman Al “Bubba” Baker for the past several seasons as the honorary co-chairs of the annual Taste of the Browns event.
This past year, the Taste of the Browns featured chefs from 31 local restaurants who shared their talents and foods with guests in order to help the Cleveland Foodbank raise $160,000, enough money for more than 640,000 nutritious meals.
Thomas has attended events in support of the Cleveland Foodbank since his rookie year in 2007.
“It’s a big event for me,” Thomas said. “I always like trying to raise money for the Cleveland Foodbank. It’s something that I got involved in during my rookie year and I get to see just how many good things that they do in our community.”
Earlier in the season, Thomas and his wife made a donation to the Cleveland Kids In Need Resource Center where they provided free school supplies to teachers in underprivileged schools in Northeast Ohio. They worked with 10 Cleveland-area teachers and helped them pick up supplies through their back-to-school effort.
“I’ve always thought that education is extremely important with our youth,” Thomas said. “You see first-hand the impact teachers can have on their students and to be able to get school supplies in an environment that otherwise might not get them, this organization allows supplies to get into the classrooms that are most needy in our area. We need to give them all the tools necessary for them to reach their dreams and that’s what this center does.”
Annie Thomas added, “Cleveland has been such a blessing to us. We love it here and just giving back to the community is something that’s very important to us because it’s given us so much. This is where Joe and I started our lives. They’ve embraced us with open arms and we would like to embrace them back and this is the perfect place to do it.”
Thomas and his wife also support the Cleveland Animal Protective League by volunteering their time to take care of the animals and make school visits to those who raise the most money for the APL.
After the Browns finished an organized team activities practice this offseason, Thomas and his wife partnered with the Cleveland Animal Protective League and Q104’s morning show, Fee’s Company, for a visit to Ms. Moennich’s fourth-grade class at Messiah Lutheran Middle School in Fairview Park in recognition of the students’ commitment to helping animals during Q104’s Pledge for Pets Radiothon.
During the students’ “Week of Caring,” the children joined Q Cash Captains, Q Cash Kids and Q Cash Schools in collecting “Doggy Dollars” and “Kitty Kash.” The students entered the contest with just one week remaining and raised $700.
“We are all really excited and the money obviously goes to a great cause with the APL, which is close to everyone’s heart who is out here,” Thomas told the students. “My wife and I spend quite a bit of time over there. We do a lot with the fundraising efforts and do a lot of things that help the APL.”
In addition to his support of the Cleveland community, Thomas lends his time to those who give theirs in service to the country. In 2010, Thomas joined several other football players for the NFL-USO program where he visited military bases in the Middle East.
He has also participated in dinners with families of active-duty soldiers currently on deployment and has two game day ticket programs, including one for military men and women through the USO of Northern Ohio.