The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation hosted 200 elementary school children on Tuesday at FedExField for a special holiday-themed event.
Just across from where defensive lineman Jonathan Allen would normally dress for football games inside the FedExField locker room, this year’s first-round pick turned an opened gift into a lasting memory.
For one of the lucky 200 local elementary school students that filtered through the team’s overhauled locker room -- decorated and designed to resemble Santa’s workshop – Allen played catch with him using a brand new football, a small gesture that will surely stay with him.
“I feel like this is just about giving time, and something like that, it’s something that he might not ever forget for the rest of his life,” Allen said. “It’s something so simple as just throwing the football around with him.”
It was one of many memories acquired on Tuesday during another festive day at the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation’s annual Skins Santa Shoppe. The event, which hosted students from District of Columbia, Fairfax County and Prince George’s County Public Schools, once again offered multiple stations that allowed kids to get into the holiday spirit.
After introductions were made to recognize volunteers from VISA and the U.S. Marine Corps ,Redskins cheerleaders and players surprised everyone before handing out a specially plated lunch. Among those players in attendance were Allen, tight ends Vernon Davis and Niles Paul, wide receivers Ryan Grant and Josh Doctson, right guard Brandon Scherff, running back Rob Kelley and linebacker Chris Carter.
They each chatted and ate with students before leading their groups throughout the FedExField club level for a variety of activities. Students had the opportunity to make tree ornaments, build their own cupcakes thanks to Amphora Bakery, wrap their assigned player in Christmas streamers and decorations and try on costumes at a photo booth.
“When these kids grow up and they’re older, they’ll look back on this experience and they’ll say ‘Wow, I had an opportunity to interact with football players, the Washington Redskins, and they really treated me well,’” Davis said. “I have to give all the credit to the Charitable Foundation, because the organization does a really great job as far as making sure that they can put a smile on someone’s face. Today is an example of that. To be here, sharing this experience with them means a lot, means a lot to me.”
Davis had a particularly rewarding time finding presents a couple of floors below, where Santa was waiting to lead a parade withthe Marines, representing Toy for Tots, around lockers that had been designated with each student’s name and a gift inside.
That was also a favorite of Laurie Manusky, wife of defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, who seemed to be having just as much fun as the kids she was chaperoning.
“I will say dressing the players – we trimmed the tree and we dressed the players, seeing Ryan Grant and Josh [Doctson] with glitter and garlands, it was great,” Manusky said. “They had a great time playing Simon Says with them, too. The kids just bring the joy and make this season what it is.”
“I like being around the kids,” Allen added. “I mean, the kids are funny, you know? What I like about kids is they’re just so honest. They say some of the craziest things. I just love being around them and just talking to them. It’s definitely a reminder.”
Like most events that Davis, a Washington, D.C., native, attends, this one was particularly meaningful, as he could relate to many of the students who received gifts on Tuesday.
“Growing up here, I know what it’s like, I know how most of these kids grow up because I grew up in a neighborhood where it wasn’t pretty, but it was good. It worked for me. I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world, because I learned a lot from the environment that I grew up in. To be here is extremely special. I must say it and I’ll keep saying it, because it is. It really is, especially playing for the Washington Redskins.”