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Holiday Hope

Posted Dec 7, 2010

Several Broncos, led by event host Champ Bailey, volunteered at Tuesday's annual Broncos Denver Rescue Mission Holiday Party at The Crossing.

DENVER -- Champ Bailey took a break from mingling with guests at the 12th-annual Broncos Denver Rescue Mission Holiday Party at The Crossing on Tuesday night to talk to reporters.

Behind him some of the roughly 200 attendees -- residents at the transitional living facility for families without permanent housing -- went through the buffet line preparing for a holiday meal. Off to his right, four of his teammates -- all wearing blue and orange Broncos Santa hats -- signed autographs and posed for pictures with youngsters.

For Bailey, the event host, the scene showed why he's never shied away from throwing his support behind the Rescue Mission and what has become its signature holiday event.

"These are people who need a helping hand, and I'd do anything to give back," Bailey said. "Being here tonight and seeing them have a great meal and a smile on their faces means a lot."

Bailey, David Bruton, Daniel Graham, Kyle McCarthy, Wesley Woodyard and Denver Broncos Cheerleader Nicole helped spread holiday cheer to guests, who received holiday gift bags in addition to the free meal complete with ham and turkey and all the trimmings from Epicurean Catering.

After time for food, pictures and autographs, everyone piled into the facility's Denver Broncos Youth Center for gingerbread cookie decorating -- a clear highlight for the players who squeezed colored icing and dropped candy in elaborate designs.

Greta Walker, director of public relations for the Denver Rescue Mission, said the party comes at the perfect time to brighten the spirits of families facing tough situations. Walker said the thrill of a few hours to interact with their favorite Broncos continues to make it "the holiday event of the year."

"We want to make this a joyous event and let them know that we're here right beside them," Walker said. "We're helping them work toward these solutions, so that they can find permanent housing. This party is a way for us to be their family and hopefully give them some holiday cheer during a difficult time."

It's a phenomenon Bailey has come to understand after several years as host. The veteran cornerback said being able to help families in need brings back fond memories of his grandmother, who at times when he was growing up would take in less fortunate people until they could get back on their feet.

Bailey, who volunteers his time throughout the year at The Crossing, delights in the support of his teammates when the holiday party comes around and hopes the feeling of being able to give back encourages them to get involved elsewhere in the community.

"I'm here every year," Woodyard said. "He doesn't even have to ask me to be here. It's something that I mark on my calendar every year, and I look forward to coming."

And one of the reasons Bailey's teammates continue to come back is the fun they have at the event.

With plenty of youngsters to laugh and joke around with they stay busy throughout, and when it comes time to decorate the gingerbread cookies, it's often hard to separate the players from the kids.

This year, the unofficial crown for best cookie decorator went to Bruton, a first-time participant in the event. The safety earned praise from children and parents alike for his creations, which included himself -- a cookie decorated with a blue Broncos jersey and helmet complete with an orange No. 30.

Afterward, Bruton -- his sweat pants smudged with red icing -- laughed about his decorating exploits and complained of a sugar rush from eating too many M&M candies, leaving no doubt why the Broncos are happy to share their holiday time with the Denver Rescue Mission.

"I'll definitely be back," Bruton said. "If anybody wants to challenge me in gingerbread cookie making, I'm there."

For a photo gallery from the event, click here.