Lone Tree, Colo. – Wide receivers Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas were joined by a handful of Broncos teammates who helped 25 children cross various presents off their Christmas lists Tuesday night at a local Target.
For the third consecutive year, Decker and Thomas rewarded members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver from ages 8 to 14 for outstanding participation in their after-school programs. The prize for their extracurricular activity was a shopping spree to pick out Christmas presents for themselves and their family members.
While many of the kids immediately bee-lined for the video games and toys, others headed to the clothing aisles to pick out pajamas, shirts, and shoes for their siblings and parents. It was an exciting event for everyone involved, as the aisles filled with smiles and laughter throughout the event. And it wasn't just the children who were enjoying themselves.
"That's the best part about it," Decker said of filling up the shopping carts. "They have a wish list they make up, and to kind of knock off one at a time, whether it's Barbies or it's Nerf guns, it's fun to play with them and just enjoy their company."
Decker was one of a number of Broncos who lent a hand, as he and Thomas were joined by wide receiver Brandon Stokley, guard Chris Kuper, linebacker Joe Mays, tight end Julius Thomas and safety Mike Adams.
"It's great," Decker said. "That's what is so great about this team, is that everybody is willing to give back and give their time. Everybody knows how important family is. The character of this team, it says a lot about the guys that are on the Denver Broncos."
One player in particular who seemed positively impacted by his interaction with the kids was Thomas, who has long had a connection to the Boys & Girls Club organization.
"Boys and Girls Club was something I grew up around as a kid," Thomas said. "I never was in it, but players I know from high school that I played basketball with had moms and grandmothers that worked at Boys & Girls Clubs. All the kids, they loved being around other kids. When you have kids that are in the club, the things that they go through, and they meet people like us, football players or anybody else, just meet new people, I think it's something bright for them. And it's bright for me, because I get to meet new kids and I love kids. It's just fun, it puts a smile on my face all the time."
The children who participated filled their shopping carts with a wide variety of gifts that included basketballs, footballs, video games, headphones, action figures, Broncos clothing, bedroom slippers, CDs by their favorite musicians and DVDs.
Tuesday night's shopping spree took place just 24 hours after linebacker Wesley Woodyard hosted the 16Ways Foundation's Third Annual Toy Drive. And it wasn't the only event of the evening featuring Broncos players, as cornerback Champ Bailey was hosting the annual Denver Rescue Mission Holiday Party at the same time. The flurry of community activity shows what the Broncos consider their priorities during the holiday season.
"It's important for all of us, that's why you see so many guys in the community doing things, because we know that family is important, that giving back is important," Decker said. "If you can just do something like this that puts a smile on a kid's face, it can make a change in their life. That's what it's all about."
As the evening approached its conclusion, Thomas said that for the third year in a row, he had a blast interacting with the kids who participated. So much so, he added, that he wants to make similar hands-on experiences with young people an even bigger part of his future.
"I just like doing it because hopefully one day I have my own group home or boys' home or something like that, because that's how much I really like being around kids," Thomas said.