Drew Stanton and his teammates invited 50 Cleveland-area kids to a Passing Along the Joy shopping event to ensure they would have gifts for the holiday season.
The idea came from Ephraim Salaam, a former teammate of Drew Stanton's in Detroit.
Stanton attended one of Salaam's "Shop with a Jock" events back in 2009, during Stanton's second NFL season. Salaam changed teams the next season but Stanton was inspired to continue the tradition. He brought it with him to Indianapolis, Arizona and on Tuesday, he brought it to Cleveland.
"To allow kids to be kids is a powerful tool, especially when they're dealing with a lot of different things," Stanton said. "You let them have free run of everything, it's a neat day."
Stanton chose 50 children from recreation centers around Cleveland on Tuesday and introduced them to Chompz and Mr. and Mrs. Claus, who joined the children for a pizza party before Stanton and his teammates allowed the kids to be their own Santa for a day.
They chose whatever they wanted for Christmas. Some wanted toys, others sought out backpacks. One time, Stanton said, a child wanted to purchase $100 worth of candy. The experience is always fulfilling, though, regardless of gift selection.
This year, Stanton feels the event accurately reflects the spirit of Cleveland.
"I think (when) you look at the heartbeat of the city, it really is a city that has each other's back," Stanton said. "Everything that this team has gone through, people continue to show up. I think that's the support that you need to overcome adversity."
Stanton recognized support for the Browns as support for his family. And to the Stanton's, that support should go both ways.
"This is the community that supports me and my family," Stanton said. "We want to give back as much as we can."
Stanton received support from his teammates as well Tuesday. Several players, including his fellow quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Tyrod Taylor, took time out of their off day to participate to take kids shopping with Stanton. Teammates helping the team help the fans: That's how the relationship should work.
"We're a team for a reason," Stanton said. "We have to have each other's backs. And when you have events like this, I think it's important you show up for your teammates. It's a testament to the guys we have in the locker room, the organization that's put this team in place."