On Tuesday night, the Broncos went to the Denver Rescue Mission to meet families and decorate gingerbread men.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – ** Steven Johnson knows what it's like "to not have the Christmas you want" growing up.
A Philadelphia native whose Christmases as a kid were often low key due to financial constraints, he was glad to join seven other Broncos on Tuesday night at the Denver Rescue Mission's annual holiday party. The Broncos signed autographs, took pictures and decorated gingerbread men with families staying at the facility.
"It feels good to make their holiday season a little brighter," Johnson said. "Just to be in the position we're in now, we're very fortunate and very blessed to be able to play football in the NFL and be able to provide for ourselves and our families. For some kids who don't necessarily have those things, like I said, this could mean the world to them. I'm happy to be able to contribute."
Johnson along with Chris Harris Jr., Corey Nelson, Bradley Roby, Todd Davis, Quanterus Smith, Ben Garland and Quinton Carter were in attendance. While the kids and families were smiling and enjoying themselves at the party, the players seemed to have just as much fun.
"It's a wonderful feeling, seeing the smiles on their faces," Nelson said. "To talk to the kids, to have fun with them, to play with them, to make decorations, cookies, whatever it is, and it's just an amazing feeling to be able to feel the warmth that they have just by talking to them."
In addition to meeting the Broncos, families in attendance received gift bags and enjoyed a holiday meal, both provided by the team.
The families at the party are currently living at Denver Rescue Mission's Crossing Place location. The families there are currently in transition from a variety of situations – including being homeless, dealing with family struggles or living in their car.
There are about 80 families living in the facility and they are all in a program to help improve their lives. They are taking classes, resume building and utilizing the organizations' resources to become self-sufficient.
"The holidays can be a kind of just challenging time for some people and it's a real blessing to have the Broncos step up and show us big support," said Denver Rescue Mission Director of Public Relations Alexxa Gagner. "It really is so special for the kids and the families to see that support, that community support, rallying around them and showing them that they're important and they're special and that they can get those tools to go back out on their own.
"Sometimes when families have gone through difficulties, especially through the holidays, the season can be something that they don't look forward to. So having this party and having people come here and show support and getting to meet Bronco players especially for these kids is just wonderful and really brightens their days."
Harris, who attended the event for the second consecutive year, said it's nice to be a part of the event and help the kids forget about life's problems for a couple of hours and have fun.
"We're blessed to have this platform to be able to hang out with kids. You can never get enough of it, they love it," Harris said. "It's tough to live in this world nowadays and have fun and we just want them to forget about life for a couple hours… It's the kind of thing you want to keep going, it's a great event every year and we love coming to it, you can see by the turnout all the guys have fun here. It's just something you want to keep going every year."
Both Harris and Roby noted that the Rescue Mission was a big component of former Bronco cornerback Champ Bailey's community service. Roby, a rookie, wants to emulate the future Hall of Famer in both his efforts on the field and in the community.
"It's gratifying because I remember when I was their age, I remember when I was 7, 8 years old running around and I would have loved it if an NFL player was helping me out," Roby said. "I would have loved NFL players to come in and just hang out with me and joke around with me. It's fun for me and it's a great thing."