Spreading some holiday cheer

Posted Nov 30, 2011

It’s a time of year when people flock to malls and retail stores, trying to scoop up the hottest items and take advantage of the best sales, getting ready for Christmas day.

At times, through all of the hustle and bustle, the spirit of Christmas can be lost.

It’s a time of year when giving is the most important thing, and giving to those in need should be right at the top of the list.

“It’s Christmas time. It’s the best time of year to give back,” said Chris Carter. “Everybody is in need of something at one point or another. This is when you need to put time aside and give back to each other, show how much we care and love each other.”

That is exactly what Carter and some of his Steelers teammates did this week when they took local at-risk teens shopping as a part of “Shop with a Steeler” at American Eagle Outfitters at the South Side Works.

“This is my favorite time of the year,” said Mewelde Moore. “It’s the season for giving, the season for laughter and cheer. I am happy to share the gifts we have been given and give back to the community.”

American Eagle closed their doors for the evening to allow the players and teens from KidsVoice, a United Way Agency, to enjoy the shopping experience. Each teen was given a $200 gift card to buy clothes that they otherwise might not be able to afford.

“I like to share the experience with them, maybe make someone’s dream come true,” said Isaac Redman. “Growing up I always wished I could have someone do this for me so I could get some nice clothes to wear. It’s nice to be able to help them get these things, a warm hoodie or some new jeans. It’s good to put a smile on their face.”

Groups were paired with the players, including Carter, Moore, Redman, Jerricho Cotchery, Marcus Gilbert, Keenan Lewis, Max Starks and Ike Taylor.

“It was a lot of fun just interacting with them,” said Cotchery. “They were excited to get the clothes. It was good for them to have a distraction from what they have been through and just have a night out. I remember when I was a kid wanting to meet a professional athlete. I never got that opportunity. Being able to spend time together is good.”

As the shopping got rolling, players pitched in to make sure anyone that went a bit over the allotment were covered, making sure everyone was happy.

“You don’t think twice about it. You just do it,” said Taylor.  “I am fortunate. I feel like I am blessed. Why not return the favor.”

And while the clothes are something the teens will be able to enjoy for a while, the memory from the entire evening will always be with them.

“Most of them live in group homes or are away from their families and have nothing to look forward to at the holidays,” said Scott Hollander, executive director of KidsVoice. “It’s just a reminder of what they don’t have. The gifts the Steelers and American Eagle are giving them, and just the chance to be with the Steelers it makes them feel special. They are thrilled. What they buy today will remind them of what their experience was. It’s something they will always remember.”