Ward, Haden spread holiday blessings

Posted Nov 26, 2013

CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Browns defensive backs T.J. Ward and Joe Haden delivered turkeys to the St. Augustine Hunger Center Tuesday.

Whether it is big hits on running backs or interceptions at critical points in the game, Cleveland Browns defensive backs T.J. Ward and Joe Haden give fans plenty to cheer about when they are on the field at FirstEnergy Stadium.

And on Tuesday, Ward and Haden gave the city a reason to stand up and cheer by partnering with local sports reporter Mark “Munch” Bishop of ESPN 850 WKNR and delivering turkeys to the St. Augustine Hunger Center ahead of Thanksgiving on Thursday.

“It’s just another way to give back to the community, especially during the holiday season,” Ward said. “With Thanksgiving, we’re making sure we can feed as many mouths as we can. I think it’s done very well the past three years, and we’re going to keep it going as long as we’re here.”

Haden added, “I’ve always been blessed to have food and clothes and a little bit extra with things that I didn’t really need. Just knowing that I live in Cleveland and people down the street from me are starving on Thanksgiving when I’m there eating good with my family, I just don’t feel comfortable not trying to help other people.”

Ward came up with the idea to help the Cleveland community three years ago, and quickly enlisted the help of his 2010 NFL Draft classmate in Haden. Since then, the two have donated hundreds of turkeys to feed the less fortunate.

“We’re just two young dudes that came into the league, good-hearted kids, just happy,” Haden said. “We play a game, the game of football, which we love. It’s a real big game, but at the end of the day, it’s all about family. It’s all about love. It’s all about friends. It’s all about relationships, and that’s just what we’re building.”

Ward added, “I think we’re a great team, and putting our work in, in the community, it’s been even better to do it with him. I definitely consider him my brother, and I think it’s important for us to do these types of things.”

For Ward and Haden, Tuesday’s turkey delivery was their way of taking the blessings they have received and passing them on to those in need.

“Everything starts with the community,” Ward said. “From the kids growing up and becoming adults and the leaders of the community, it starts with them. It’s just very important to set them off on the right path, set a good example for them and be supportive of them the way they’ve been supportive of us. It’s just one way we can do that.”

Haden continued, “I’m so fortunate. I’m so blessed. I thank God every day for the blessings that He gave me. To be able to play the game of football and then, being able to help so many people around me, my family’s never hurting for anything, I feel I should go out and give to the people that don’t really have that much. It’s real important. You should never take anything for granted.”

During the event, Ward and Haden delivered the turkeys, posed for photos and signed autographs for those who visited the St. Augustine Hunger Center Tuesday. Seeing the reactions of those on site gave Ward the biggest reward of all.

“It means so much to see how you can touch a person, and that your presence can bring so much joy, it’s definitely a feeling you can’t get from anything else,” Ward said. “We’ve witnessed that and we’ve been able to achieve that through these three years here. Even being in the community every day, signing autographs for the kids and shaking hands with people, you touch somebody every time and you don’t even know how much. It’s definitely a blessing to be able to do that.”

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