LAKEWOOD, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns strong safety T.J. Ward hosted the second annual Ward’s ReWards shopping spree for 30 Cleveland-area children from the Applewood Centers on Monday night.
For Ward, the Browns’ fourth-year safety, it was his way of passing along the blessings he has received in his life.
“I’ve been blessed to have everything I wanted growing up, and blessed even more to be able to provide for my family now,” Ward said. “I just want to be able to provide a little bit for those who are not as fortunate as I am, or as fortunate as I have been.
“During this time, a lot of people are getting gifts, but there are a lot of kids that aren’t during this time, so I want to make sure I give back and give some gifts to some kids. They deserve it. Everyone deserves to have a happy Christmas. I just want to put a smile on kids’ faces and give them that one thing that they need or want. It’s a lot of smiles, so I’m happy with that.”
Ward said that those smiles on the faces of the children are some of the greatest gifts he gets during the holiday season.
“The older you get, the more you appreciate the smaller things,” Ward said. “It’s not always about gifts and toys, electronics and all that other stuff. That’s good too, but it’s the smaller things, the more emotional things, the emotional feelings that bring a smile to my face and make me feel good about the things I’m doing.
“I’ve been blessed to be in this situation, so why not pass some of these blessings down?”
Ward also credited his parents, Terrell Sr., and Laneita, with instilling in him and his siblings the importance of supporting those less fortunate.
“My family’s really close,” Ward said. “My parents have always taught us to be grateful for what you have, and at the same time, help others with what they don’t. I’m just continuing on what my parents taught me.”
Much like he does during games, Ward enlisted the help of his teammates to support the Cleveland community.
“It’s a blessing to be able to give back,” Gipson said. “I think it’s a real great thing that T.J.’s doing with giving back to the community. We want this community to look at us as more than just a bunch of guys collecting paychecks playing football on Sunday. We actually want to give back because these are our biggest supporters. It’s definitely a blessed situation to be in.
“Growing up, a lot of these guys that play this sport and make a good living definitely weren’t blessed to be born with a silver spoon in their mouths. It’s a blessed situation to be in, giving back to the community and the kids.”
Melanie Falls, the executive director for Applewood Centers, thanked Ward for his “generosity and big heart,” and called the Ward’s ReWards shopping spree her highlight of the holiday season.
“It means a great deal,” Falls said. “I think the gifts themselves are nice and important, but I think that the time the players are giving to these kids who often don’t have a lot of role models is really the most valuable part of it. Last year, players were telling kids as they were leaving to stay on the right path, set goals, that was invaluable to them.”