49ers Joe Staley and Chris Borland joined forces for the 7th Annual Linebacker Toy Giveaway at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose. The burly defensive all-stars succumbed to their soft hearts and gentle giants within, melting at the sight of youthful smiles in the Pediatric and Neonatal Intensive Care Units. Rolling carts full of 49ers-themed gifts including: robots, Legos, Hello Kitty blankets, backpacks, headphones, watches and more, the two linebackers provided not only toys and necessities to the patients and families at Good Samaritan, but a sense of care and pure joy as well.
"It's important to give back as NFL athletes, and we have a solid platform to do so," said Borland, "This ongoing event has always seemed incredible and I admire what Patrick Willis does for these kids. I couldn't be more thrilled to be involved with it this year."
Each year around the holidays, Patrick Willis rallies the 49ers linebackers for an opportunity to give back to the community and brighten an otherwise trying holiday season for the families at Good Samaritan Hospital. Now in its 7th year, the Linebacker Toy Giveaway was initiated by former 49er Takeo Spikes and passed onto Patrick Willis four seasons ago. With rising NFL star and avid community volunteer, Chris Borland on the roster, the torch has once again been passed to ensure each December is complete with 49ers linebackers getting involved and leaving a lasting impact on even the youngest of individuals.
"Just for the record," stated Willis as he put his arm around his teammate, "when my time comes, Chris Borland will lead the Linebacker Toy Giveaway, and continue to pour the heart and commitment into bringing a special holiday season to these children."
The 6'1" 240 lb. Willis smiled from ear-to-ear as he held 7 lb. 4 oz. Olivia in the NICU, posing for photos, and melting at the site of the beautiful, innocent and strong 7-day old.
"This event is always so special to me," said Willis. "I've been a part of it for four years and it continues to be such an enlightening experience, coming to the hospital and surprising the children with gifts."
"We gave away earrings, stickers, a crown and a wand," added Willis' four-year old sister Ava.
"We gave away numerous gifts," continued Willis, "but most importantly the interaction with the patients is unique from room-to-room and every visit is just as special as the next."
Good Samaritan prides itself in patient care, not only for the patients' physical well-being, but for emotional welfare as well. Good Samaritan Hospital Director of Marketing and Communications, Allison Everman, introduced the staff and patients to the linebackers and elaborated on just how meaningful the experience is for all those involved.
"We know it is a hard time for our patients, so while they are here, we want them to feel physically, emotionally and spiritually taken care of," said Everman. "To see the patients smile so big when the 49ers players walk into their room is so great, and we believe it helps them heal faster."
The day culminated with a heartfelt visit with those receiving long-term treatment in the Oncology Unit. Bittersweet exchanges took place between Willis, Borland and families facing the unimaginable, and patients enduring the biggest battle of their lives, including some long-time 49ers season ticket holders. "The spirit of the people we meet through the Linebacker Toy Giveaway is immeasurable, and it is truly inspiring to see them excited about the day and about life," reflected Borland. "It has made a lasting impact on me, and it has on Patrick [Willis] as well."