For most, the holiday season conjures up nostalgic images of twinkling lights, cozy gatherings and glittery packages. Though as an epidemic of homeless youth continues to grow throughout the Bay Area, for many, the holiday lights have dimmed and the packages are often nonexistent.
49ers Chris Borland and Eric Reid turned in their football pads for the day to join teammates Aaron Lynch, Antoine Bethea and several others from the red and gold for the annual VISA Shop with a Player event. In an effort to bring cheer to those in need, the 49ers spent the afternoon with local under-served youth from Family Supportive Housing, Inc. The children arrived at Target in San Jose for a one-on-one shopping experience with 49ers players to ensure that each of their families' wish lists were checked twice and fulfilled. For one youth in particular, this shopping experience could not have come at a better time.
"One of our families is moving out of transitional housing and into their new home this week," shared Executive Director of Family Supportive Housing, Inc. Beth Leary. "Thanks to VISA and the 49ers, their child will be able to surprise the family with some items for their new home to make this holiday season extra sweet and memorable."
Family Supportive Housing, Inc. provides a full spectrum of services for those facing poverty, hunger and homelessness. The organization's programs and services are designed to fulfill the needs of the family as a whole through interim transitional housing, childcare, life skills classes and supportive services for families in permanent housing. While it can be difficult to provide the warmth and spirit of the holiday season for families dealing with such adversity, the 49ers and VISA were inspired by the mission of Family Supportive Housing, Inc. and determined to restore that magical feeling for deserving young individuals.
"We shopped with Logan who is an incredibly smart and giving twelve-year old," reflected defensive tackle Mike Purcell, joined by his fiancé Christina. "It was not only a positive experience for Logan to be able to provide gifts for his family, but the ultimate holiday experience for us as well. It is so important to give back when blessed with the opportunity, and in turn it leaves you with that warm holiday spirit."
As piles of pots, pans, cameras, sweaters, Legos and princess dolls filled the decorated shopping carts, the children and players made their way to the registers, ready to check out with their $300 VISA gift cards courtesy of VISA.
"VISA's goal is to get out there and help those in need in the biggest way possible," stated VISA Global Mobility Analysis, Darlene Vela. "We were thrilled to partner with the 49ers for this event, not only providing VISA gift cards to low income families, but by pouring our hearts into volunteering. The player, the youth and I all come from different backgrounds, but none of that mattered when we were sharing in the spirit of the holidays, giving to others and just really embracing the present moment."
The day concluded with packaging carts full of presents in festive gift wrap with the help of Target volunteers. 49ers including Alex Boone, Asante Cleveland, Blaine Gabbert, Craig Dahl, Derek Carrier, Dontae Johnson, Garrett Celek, Josh Johnson and Michael Wilhoite joined in and seemed to have all the time in the world to shed some light on a trying time and make a lasting impact on the youth of Family Supportive Housing, Inc.
"I hope they enjoy the toys we were able to throw in for them in addition to what we helped them pick out for their family," expressed defensive tackle Quinton Dial, At their core, these kids are incredibly generous, despite all the obstacles they face on a daily basis. We feel honored to take some time out of our day to not only spend with them, but to learn from them, and hopefully create some memories that will last beyond the holiday season."