The San Francisco 49ers are often recognized for their impact on communities surrounding the Bay Area and during this holiday season, the team extended their helping hands to families from Santa Cruz County for the Adopt-A-Family Holiday Event. Partnering with Santa Cruz Community Services Agency, the 49ers hosted a two-day holiday party that engaged 49ers staff, players, coaches, ownership and their families in the assembly of gift baskets for fifteen families from Santa Cruz, and a special delivery from 49ers alumni Dwight Clark and Joe Nedney at a holiday extravaganza at the Community Center in Felton.
"Last month, several players, coaches and their significant others expressed interest in supporting families in need this holiday season," said Community Relations Specialist, Heather Curry, "In true 49ers fashion, they have opened their hearts to go above and beyond to ensure a great holiday experience for all fifteen of the Santa Cruz families."
The 49ers Café was transformed into Santa's workshop as 49ers families filled it with toys, winter apparel, and giftwrap accessories topped off with an aroma of hot cocoa and peppermint marshmallows. In addition to the items noted on their "wish lists," each beneficiary received a 49ers apparel item and each child received a 49ers-themed toy, outfit or stuffed animal. The true spirit of the season was reflected through the kindness, generosity and holiday cheer painted the faces of the men who are typically seen wearing game faces every Sunday. Joining their loved ones, 49ers Ownership, coaches and players including safety Eric Reid, tight end Garrett Celek, and teammates Garrett Celek, Colt McCoy, Craig Dahl, and Daniel Kilgore spent the afternoon checking off wish lists, wrapping, and tying ribbons to create a perfect visual and essential surprise for those in need.
"We wanted to go beyond the basic needs and wants of the families and provide an exceptional holiday for them," stated safety Craig Dahl, "We thought about our favorite toys as kids and wanted to share that childhood experience with these children, by giving them something they would truly enjoy and remember."
As the wish lists were fulfilled, gift cards courtesy of Safeway were added to each basket, ensuring each family would enjoy a warm holiday meal. The last of the decorative bows were tied and Daniel Kilgore led the pack to the storage POD which would house the hundreds of gifts awaiting delivery the following day.
"It has been a great, humbling experience shopping for these families," expressed 49ers guard Daniel Kilgore, "The holidays are about going out and doing good deeds and we were happy to have the opportunity to do just that for some very deserving children."
While some families eagerly sought out their baskets at the Santa Cruz Community Service Agency's Adopt-A-Family location in Watsonville, others gathered at the volunteer center in Felton for holiday festivities, and one received a special delivery to their home from 49ers alumnus Dwight Clark. Clark joined former 49ers kicker Joe Nedney at the volunteer center where they decorated gingerbread cookies, drank apple cider, and played Santa with the beneficiaries. Clark and Nedney shared gift after gift and surprised each family with the baskets which had been so graciously assembled and wrapped in the workshop the day prior.
"It is incredible to see how grateful the children are as they open each gift," shared Clark, "This is what the holidays and the 49ers are all about—sharing the holidays and giving back."
Faces glistened with tears of joy as children opened packages which revealed all that they had dreamed of this Christmas and more. Emotion and a sense of gratitude filled the room, as all involved shared an understanding of one another and the magic that rained on what would have otherwise been a forgettable holiday. Families departed the center with full arms and hearts, while the 49ers topped off the humble, successful, charitable spirit of 2013 and strive to continue making an impact on and off the field in the New Year.