NORTH OLMSTED -- Cleveland Browns offensive lineman
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.”
Thomas was partnered with a boy named Logan and the two quickly bonded over talk about the Browns.
“Logan was such a sweet kid,” Thomas said. “He was just saying how exciting it was to be able to spend time with the Cleveland Browns because he was such a big Cleveland Browns fan. We got him a Cleveland Browns jersey and a hat and a couple shirts.
“You don’t realize how important the team is until you get a chance to spend some time with some fans and realize how much of a difference you can make, just by spending a few minutes or a few hours with a kid.”
Some of the families that participated in Monday’s shopping trip have been affected by natural disasters. Others have lost their homes and personal possessions in fires.
“After a house fire, we walk through the house and see stuffed animals burnt and it’s a really sad situation,” said Christine Moran, regional communications officer for the American Red Cross. “In a few weeks’ time, to be able to bring them to something like this and have the Browns take the time out of their schedules and walk around to buy shoes and t-shirts and all the things that they’ve lost, it’s huge.
“It’s the other side of the tragedy. We respond to a house fire a night, so we see this all the time. To have something really positive like this happen with the Cleveland Browns, it’s phenomenal.”
In order to make the night even more special, Thomas enlisted the help of his teammates to shop with the children.
Defensive backs T.J. Ward,
“This is what it’s all about, helping others and it’s important to remember what we’re grateful for,” Cameron said. “Doing stuff like this is definitely a reminder that we can give back and that we have been given so much with playing in this football league. With all of the stuff that’s given to us, this is a chance to give back.”
Monday’s event came a few days after Thomas was named the Browns’ 2012 Walter Payton Man of the Year. It is the second time his career that Thomas was named the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year. He is the first two-time recipient in Browns history.“It’s a really special thing,” Thomas said. “Walter Payton was a Hall-of-Fame talent, phenomenal, one of the best running backs to ever play, but he was also one of the best people that ever played in the NFL. He was just an outstanding individual, somebody who made a difference in so many lives. To be recognized in the same breath as somebody like that is really humbling.”