Twelve Broncos joined Denver Rescue Mission volunteers at Sports Authority Field to hand out turkeys and Thanksgiving food boxes to 1600 families. (Photos by Caroline Deisley)
DENVER —Despite a dreary, snowy Tuesday morning, the Broncos still got into a charitable Thanksgiving spirit a couple days early at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Twelve players joined volunteers from the Denver Rescue Mission to load up cars filled with turkeys and Thanksgiving food boxes for approximately 1,600 families who qualified and pre-registered for food assistance.
"It's refreshing," cornerback Aqib Talib said. "Giving out dinners to people who need it evidently … it's just refreshing."
"I think it's a humbling experience and it's a blessing to give back to the community on a week like Thanksgiving," wide receiver Bennie Fowler added. "It's fun just to be out here with the guys giving out turkeys to people who need them."
The players were extremely enthusiastic throughout the morning, racing each other to cars, joking about who was doing the most work and even pretending to get an extra lift in with Butterball turkeys in place of dumbbells.
"My kids don't listen sometimes," linebacker Zaire Anderson joked as he got on Dekoda Watson for temporarily slacking off. "But [handing out these turkeys is] enjoyable because I get to put smiles on people's faces. It's fun."
For defensive end Vance Walker, who's recovering from a torn ACL and torn meniscus, it's an opportunity to get back out in the community despite being just 10 weeks out of surgery.
"It's great. To be able to give back to the community, that's obviously the best thing I can do whether I'm playing or not," Walker said. "But to really be able to put an emphasis on that, to turn something really bad into something good, I love it."
He may have just recently gotten rid of the crutches, but Walker was still able to hand out turkeys to the thankful families alongside his teammates in the snow.
"It's not that cold," Walker tried to tell himself. "I'm lying, it's pretty cold. But you don't even realize it, you just see the smiles on everyone's faces and that's all that matters."
Though the morning was an immense success, the energy shifted as soon as Talib showed up with families rolling down their windows and leaping out of their cars just to get an opportunity to meet one of their favorite players and personally thank him for the meal he was helping to provide.
"It's a warm welcome but I always get a warm welcome from Denver fans," Talib said of his reception. "We've got great fans here, the best fans in the world. It's the regular welcome we always get … even on cold and rainy days like this."
This is the third year the Broncos have hosted this event at Sports Authority Field, but just the second time that players were involved in distributing the meals. For Denver Rescue Mission spokeswoman Alexa Gagner, the involvement of the players and support from the Broncos organization is what makes it one of the Mission's best events.
"I feel really privileged that I get to work here and be a part of this event," Gagner said. "Everyone here, even though it's been cold, is still smiling and has great energy. They're making the people coming to get the boxes feel loved because that's what it's all about — having them take these turkeys and food home to their house so they can have a Thanksgiving meal with their families."