COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah (ABC4 News) – 30 less fortunate children will have a Christmas this year thanks to the generosity of the Athletes Stronger Together Foundation and the Unified Fire Authority.
This morning these children ranging in age from 3 years-old to teenagers received a $100 Target gift card to spend on whatever they wanted — and as you might guess most wanted toys and candy.
The children were picked from the Kids of People or Parents in Recovery (KOPPIR) community program which is dedicated to supporting families recovering from alcohol and drugs.
“It’s really awesome, to get kids who are not gonna have a big Christmas and who have had a little bit of a rough year, but who spending $100 here can mean everything to them,” said Stephenson Sylvester, former linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers and a former University of Utah football player.
“Shop w/ Sly” event not complete without @SSylvester55, this boy was so excited to meet an NFL player and show him the gifts he got. pic.twitter.com/IExVlCsJJY— Aldo Vazquez (@abc4Aldo) December 20, 2016
As they walked in to the Target, Unified Fire Authority firefighters were lined up in a row. Each child received a t-shirt, hot chocolate and some cookies; clearly fuel to help them on their shopping excursion.
Santa Claus was also on hand offering up hugs and guidance on what kind of toys the children should get.
Each child was then paired up with a firefighter and they were off.
Some kids scanned the aisles carefully looking at the toys and trying to decide. Other’s knew exactly what they wanted and ran right to that aisle. This morning we saw kids walking away with skateboards and basketballs. One girl grabbed a soda making machine. Another wanted a princess dress and a child-sized Elsa doll. Minecraft toys were very popular as were Legos and Nerf guns. Even more popular were Star Wars toys as several kids grabbed character masks and light sabers.
“I got roller blades…a nerf gun,” said Alex Vandam.
“I got a football, a Kit Kat,” added Isac Torres.
Little Ezra Flores couldn’t wait to show us what he got. He bought a Darth Vader mask, a light saber, a drone and a Nerf gun.
“It shoots 18 darts,” he said.
This the 4th year of the “Shop with Sly.”
Sylvester began the event when he was playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, when he moved back to Utah he brought it along with him.
Over the past few years they would help a handful of kids, this year however, Athletes Stronger Together Foundation Co-Founder Dallin Rogers and Stephenson wanted to go as big as they could and managed to help 30 children.
“This is a tough and stressful time for a lot of families and so from a parent’s standpoint if helps them support their Christmas, and you know, the kids are pretty pumped,” he said.
Event organized by Athletes Stronger Together Foundation, making sure all kids have a happy holiday pic.twitter.com/X1Cv5A4Kvt
— Aldo Vazquez (@abc4Aldo) December 20, 2016
According to their website, the Athletes Stronger Together Foundation is a group of athletes whose mission is to find innovative ways to “love, lift, and inspire our communities to be better.” They organize events focused on raising necessary funds to help people in need, provide resources to the less fortunate, and help lift the spirits of less fortunate children.
“It’s amazing to know that I’m able to — that other people are able to donate to my kids so they can have a little present. So, it just really warms my heart,” said Rosie Ramirez, Ezra’s mother.
It’s been a week of giving back for Athletes Stronger Together. On December 15th, the foundation donated 20 Christmas trees and ornaments to local families in need. On the 16th they held their Burrito Project where they handed out burritos and warm clothes to the less fortunate. On December 17th, they held the FitCon Gives Back Fitness Expo, 100% of the ticket sales from the event went directly towards the ‘Shop with Sly,’ event held this morning, and you can bet the kids and parents who attended the event this morning were happy and grateful.
“It was really cool and really fun,” shouted Sam Torres, Isac Torres, and Alex Vandam.