Class by class, students came through the doors of the gym at Indianapolis’ Brookside School 54 where they were greeted with Christmas music and cheers.
“They’re overwhelmed. They see hats, they see gloves, they see Colts players, they see shoes – our Christmas isn’t complete until you come and do one of these events and give back,” said Glenn Campbell, co-founder of Indianapolis-based LIDS. “You say you always want to give back, but this truly is us giving back to a school and kids that need it.”
On Monday, the Colts teamed up with LIDS and their parent company, Genesco, to fit more than 500 underserved children with new shoes and hats as part of their 13th annual Cold Feet, Warm Shoes & Hats event.
In the team’s 13th year of partnership with LIDS, the Indianapolis Colts helped outfit underprivileged youth with new shoes and warm knit hats for the holiday season at Brookside School 54. Colts players, Cheerleaders, and Blue helped distribute the new apparel.
For the students and staff at Brookside, it was a great way to kick off the week, the month, and the holiday season.
“This is something we didn’t share with our teachers or our students. We’re really excited to see the kids’ faces when they come through the door and just really grateful for this opportunity,” said Principal Erin Simpson.
Seeing the looks on the kids’ faces is what brought quarterback Jacoby Brissett back again this year.
“We do a lot of events throughout the year. I had this one circled on my calendar because I was so excited about this one,” he said. “This is what we do it for, to be able to provide smiles on these kids’ faces. To give them an opportunity for things they might not have a chance to get.”
The kids will eventually grow out of the sneakers. But one-on-one time with a Colts player or volunteer is a gift that will last much longer.
“The sneakers are going to come and go, but the interaction is really what’s key,” said David Baxter, President and CEO of LIDS Sports. “It’s a nice thing for them to get in the spirit and know that there are people out there that really care and want to spend time with them.”
More than a dozen Colts players, Colts cheerleaders, and Colts mascot, Blue, joined almost 100 LIDS employees to make sure each child left with a hat, socks, and a pair of properly fitting shoes.
“When they walk in, I help them pick out a hat and then walk them over to one of my teammates so they can get sized up and fitted for a pair of shoes,” said linebacker Matthew Adams.
Tight end Eric Ebron made it a family affair.
“To give back is the best – and to bring Oliver so he can see it and see his dad giving back is so awesome,” said his wife, Gabriela. “We saw a little girl walk by and she had the biggest smile on her face. She was jumping up and down and that was just so awesome to see. It really warmed my heart to see them so surprised and excited to get a new pair of shoes.”
That kind of joy is what makes the event – and makes it one LIDS has to turn down volunteers for.
“We have close to 400 employees at our office. Not everybody gets to attend and they all want to. So, it is a privilege for the Lids employees who get to come be a part of this,” Baxter said. “Some of them come in the night before and do setup and then come in today and we’ll tear it down – and they’re inspired the whole time they’re here.”
The kids took home shoes, hats, and a valuable life lesson – that giving back is the best gift of all.
“You come here and you feel like you really make a difference. You get to see kids and it’s almost Christmas Day to them,” Campbell said.
That warm memory is a gift that keeps on giving.
“I remember this event from last year,” Brissett said. “It’s an event that a lot of these volunteers and a lot of these players will remember for the rest of their lives too.”
For kids, it’s a magical time of year.
For adults, seeing the holidays through the eyes of a child brings it all back.
“It’s perfect around the holidays, to get that holiday cheer started for us,” Simpson said. “And again, reminding our kids that people do care about them in school and outside of school.”
What they eventually find out is that it doesn’t take magic to make the season bright – all it really takes is love.