EAST HANOVER — Giants punter Steve Weatherford combined three of what he says are his favorite pastimes yesterday when he brought his family and some of his local fans to help a group of 50 underprivileged kids go on a holiday shopping spree.
Continuing a tradition that he and his family started several years ago, Weatherford identified one town in Giants fan land where the population could benefit from some free toys for the holiday season. 50 children from East Orange met the Super Bowl champ at the East Hanover Target yesterday, where they each received a $100 gift card to shop for holiday presents.
“Some of this kids literally don’t have anything, so getting the opportunity to hand them $100 and tell them to buy whatever they want for themselves and their families is a blessing,” Weatherford said in a phone interview about the event.
“It also gives me the chance to talk to them, and to hopefully motivate them.”
Weatherford said each year, he brings his wife and three children – ages 7, 5, and 2 – along to meet with the kids and help them shop.
“I want my children to remember all of the hard work that it takes to achieve a goal – to make it into the NFL and stay there,” he said. “But, more importantly, I want them to remember to take the blessings in your life and share them.”
According to city spokeperson Connie Jackson, the Department of Recreation & Cultural Affairs, in conjunction with the East Orange City Council, helped to select the children for the surprise holiday shopping spree.
“We are delighted that Steve Weatherford decided to bring the spirit of the season alive for some of our children here in East Orange,” Mayor Lester Taylor said in a statement about the event.
This year, the shopping spree was funded by a donation from Morris Catholic High School, which also sent student volunteers to help the kids shop. It also marked the first time that Weatherford worked with the East Hanover Target.
“We were so excited,” said Katherine Robles, the store’s team leader. “Target is so big on giving back to the community, that we wanted to do anything we could to help Steve.” The store offered a 10 percent discount on all of the items the kids bought.
“It was amazing to see how Steve interacted, not only with the children, but with the (volunteers) from Morris Catholic, and the guests shopping in the store,” Target Executive Team Leader Amy Hayes said. “He really seems to genuinely appreciate all of his fans.”
Weatherford, who was nominated this month for NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year award, said he is the one who feels grateful to be able to participate in the event each year.
“This lets me give something to these kids without expecting anything in return,” he said. “It is really the most gratifying time of the year. It’s become a family tradition for us.”
By Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com | December 16, 2014