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Gary Barnidge surprises students with holiday shopping spree

Gary Barnidge hosts 20 kids from OhioGuidestone's Stepstone Academy for a holiday shopping trip to remember! #give10

Gary Barnidge is having quite the year.

The Browns veteran tight end tied Browns legend Ozzie Newsome for most touchdowns in a season by a tight end, signed a new contract extension and ranks in the top five among all NFL tight ends for receiving yards, receptions, and touchdowns.

But it's not records and bonuses that mean most to Barnidge. It's giving back to kids and the Cleveland community.

"We have such a role where we can impact people's lives with what we do and I wanted to help these kids with something they don't get to do often," Barnidge said. "I just want to leave an impact on some people's lives."

On Tuesday, three days before Christmas -- and the players' one day off per week -- Barnidge hosted 20 students from the Stepstone Academy at Toys "R" Us in Parma for a shopping spree. Each student was given $100 to spend on just about whatever they wanted. Tight ends Jim Dray and E.J. Bibbs and quarterback Connor Shaw joined Barnidge as they each escorted a group of students around the store and helped choose toys, books, games, and stuffed animals.

Stepstone Academy, an Ohio Guidestone Organization, is a high-performing charter school located in the Central neighborhood of Cleveland that implements a rigorous curriculum focusing on inspiration, citizenship, character development and competence in reading and math. The students at Tuesday's event were selected by Barnidge and Stepstone because of their perfect attendance, good behavior and diligent focus on school work.

This marks the third year Barnidge has hosted Stepstone students for a holiday shopping spree.

"I've been with them since I've been here [in Cleveland]," Barnidge said. "It's very dear to me."

When asked if there was one moment during the shopping spree that was particularly special, Barnidge acknowledged being moved when one young girl felt lost and overwhelmed at first because she had never been in a toy store before. The students seemed just as excited to interact with the Browns players for few hours as they did leaving the store with bags full of presents.

Many of the students, ranging from Kindergarten through fourth grade, made sure to buy presents for their siblings or friends, but all of the students Tuesday were incredibly grateful toward Barnidge and his teammates.

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