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Browns players and staff give back during holidays

Brian Hartline hosted a celebrity waiter night with his teammates, with all the proceeds going to the Brian Hartline Helping Hands Foundation.

Browns staff members decked the halls of the training facility in Berea, Ohio last week – but not with decorations.

The hallways of the facility were chock full of hundreds of toys, new clothes and much more – all for a great cause. Getting into the holiday spirit, the staffers participated in a Giving Tree program, a joint effort with the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services and the Lorain County Children Services. All of the gift donations went to help area children in Foster Care programs. In the end, more than 125 children were supported through the program.

While giving back to the community is always a priority for the Cleveland Browns through the First and Ten program, it always takes on a more festive nature during the holidays. The Giving Tree initiative is just one of a laundry list of initiatives this holiday season.

Another one of those initiatives is the Adopt-a-Family holiday program, another recurring initiative. From ownership, the executive team and with incredible support from members of the Browns Women's Organization, who along with their significant others, chose to support families associated with either The Littlest Heroes – helping children recently diagnosed with cancer – or The Centers for Families and Children, which helps Cleveland families in poverty. Those who made the commitment, were matched with families, and a record number were supported through the Browns this year.

The Dawg Pound is giving back, too, with the Cleveland Browns Toy Drive. At the game against the San Francisco 49ers, fans donated toys and cash donations at the gates of FirstEnergy Stadium. These gifts go towards the Marine Toys for Tots, an organization which has distributed more than 494 million toys to roughly 230 million children since its inception in 1995.

Browns players have their own ways to give back this holiday season, as well.

Wide receiver Brian Hartline had two initiatives on back-to-back days last week. He hosted a Celebrity Waiter Night in Cleveland last Monday, with proceeds benefitting his foundation, Helping Hands Foundation. And on Tuesday, he visited patients at UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital to lift their spirits as many will not be home for the holidays.

Brian Hartline's Helping Hands Foundation provides encouragement, resources and more for ill, injured and special needs children and their families throughout the area.

FirstEnergy Stadium hosted the 2015 Providence House Deck the House Benefit Auction, where Alex Mack accepted his Ed Block Courage Award. Players Joe Thomas and Tank Carder also attended.

Joe Thomas continues his efforts to #give10 with his annual Shop with a Pro event, giving back to kids from the City of Cleveland Recreation Centers with an exclusive shopping trip, along with teammates. Additionally, his game day ticket program continues to support military families as he works direct with the USO of Northern Ohio.

"Maybe they've been away on duty for six, eight, nine, ten months," said Thomas, "and this is their first opportunity to come back home and get back together with the family and enjoy normal life."

There are several players on the Browns team who continue to make a difference, in their own way, and the Browns proudly bring these stories to life through the First and Ten platform,  #give10. This year, only one could be honored for a prestigious NFL award.

Several other players will make a difference this holiday season, carrying out the #give10 spirit in their own ways. And one of Cleveland's biggest breakout stars on the field continues to be a star in the community as well – the 2015 Cleveland Browns Walter Payton Man of the Year, Gary Barnidge. 

In addition to his work with American Football Without Barriers – a nonprofit he started with his University of Louisville teammates to teach the game to those across the world – he does a lot of work with Samaritan's Feet. Barnidge brings children from OhioGuidestone to each Browns home game and brings one on the field after each game to receive his game-worn cleats – plus a pair of brand new shoes for the child to wear. Later in December Barnidge will host additional kids from OhioGuidestone for a shopping trip to pick out their favorite toys.

"You never know the impact you can have on somebody," he said after being named the Browns Walter Payton Award recipient. "That is something that is dear and true to me."

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