49ers Shop with Bay Area Youth

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'Twas the night after clinching, when all through the store, children were excited for surprises galore. On Monday, Dec. 5th, the day after securing the 2011 NFC West Division, 49ers players went on a shopping spree.

Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, Braylon Edwards, Pierre Garçon, and Mike Iupati were excited to splurge, but they weren't shopping for themselves. With the help of team sponsor Visa, the players spent the day helping low-income youth buy holiday gifts for their families.

The shopping frenzy was all part of the 49ers annual Shop with a Player event, presented by Visa. Click here to view a video of the shopping spree.

"This is the fifth annual Visa Shop with a Player and it's one of our favorite events during the holiday season because the players really get to have fun with the kids and get to know them during the event," said Brandon Moreno, 49ers community relations manager. "Each player is paired up with four kids to have some fun, but also to be serious about getting these children gifts for their families for the holidays."

The children were dressed for shopping success as they sported custom jerseys displaying their designated player's name and number.  However, the highlight was when they were each handed a Visa $300 gift card.

"As they arrived, I was asking the kids how much they thought they were going to get for their shopping spree and they guessed $50, maybe $75. So, when they heard it was $300 each they were just beside themselves – they were so thrilled," said Joanne Pasternack, executive director of community relations/49ers Foundation. "When strategizing about their lists with the players, I heard one little boy say he was going to get diapers for his baby brother. Another girl was saying she was going to get slippers for her mom who has a bad foot. So, they're thinking it through and really in the spirit of giving."

In order to make the most of the day, 49ers wide receiver Braylon Edwards and his team decided to put into motion a strategic plan, which proved to be a success, at least until they got a little distracted.

"We had a plan and we put it in place. We shopped in groups in terms of what items people needed, so we went to the same department and knocked all that out at the same time," Edwards said." We had a good strategy, but the electronics department kind of has everybody in a frenzy. So, I think we need to get out of the electronics section before we get ourselves in trouble!"

While his team was enjoying the short distraction, Edwards described the spirit of the day.

"I've been blessed to be in the NFL and to be able to give back, and I think we're obligated to do so to those who are less fortunate just because we should. We are blessed to have the fans, the family, the support, so we should definitely give that back when we can," said Edwards. "When we have events like this, we love doing it and we love giving our time, as well as our energy to friends and family."

49ers guard Mike Iupati was equally excited to spend his day shopping with the children for their families.

"I'm very blessed to be here in the position I am and very thankful for everything," Iupati said. "I just want to give back by spending my time with them. It's just fun and pretty cool to hang out with kids and make their day."

Not normally a shopping kind-of-guy, 49ers defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois proved he may have found a new craft, as he mastered the art of helping kids shop for necessity items.

"I've got my dream team together, four kids, and we're in the clothes section getting everything for the younger kids and a few things for the bigger kids. I'd never been Christmas shopping before and to see this where the kids get $300 to walk around and get everything for their family, that's a blessing and actually showed me appreciation for it," Jean Francois said. "It shows appreciation because it's about taking time to go and do things for their parents, brothers and sisters."

Jean Francois was touched by the selfless spirit of the kids, so he decided to give them each a gift of their own, an iPod Touch.

"I had to show love to the kids because they were so busy trying to get things for their house and family, they never got the chance to find something for themselves. When I told them you can get whatever you want out of the store, everybody looked shocked and didn't say anything," said Jean Francois. "I appreciate the moments being out here with the kids helping them shop, they showed me how fun it can be. When you have kids around you that are smiling all day, you have fun. I wish I could do this every day with them."

The children chosen for the event were affiliated with InnVision the Way Home, a Bay Area based non-profit and the Silicon Valley's largest provider of housing and services to homeless and at-risk individuals and families.

"In today's world it is such a difficult time, as we have so many families in need. So, to get this opportunity to bring 20 of our children, all middle-school aged, to shop for others, what a great moment—it's magical, remarkable," said Jaynie Neveras, community relations manager for InnVision. "The best part is they are giving to others and they're just so excited to be here."

The players and their teams shopped until they dropped as they pushed their full carts through the checkout counter with their purchases piled high. As they left, shoppers heard them exclaim as they drove out of sight, "Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good night."

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