It's the season of joy. But Christmas can be tough on the kids at Trinity House, a group home for boys in Indianapolis.
"The holidays are hard in general. I think it's a difficult time of year, especially for these kids when their families aren't around," said Director Alisse Wilburn. "We are their family. So, to have other people step up and want to celebrate with them is really important."
This year, no one did – until the Colts called.
"Before the Colts stepped up and offered to sponsor, we had not had anybody set up for Christmas, so this was definitely a blessing," Wilburn said. "A huge blessing."
They may look intimidating. And on the field, they are. But the men that make up the Colts defensive line are really big guys with really big hearts. And once again, they proved it.
The guys from Trinity House showed up at the Colts complex on Tuesday afternoon for a tour and a Christmas party. As they stood on the practice field, a dozen large men wearing Santa hats walked in with big, red sacks over their shoulders.
The Indianapolis Colts D-Line raised funds to provide 10 deserving young men with Christmas gifts. The D-line surprised the young men on the indoor practice field!
"Merry Christmas!" yelled their leader. "I'm the defensive line coach, Gary Emanuel. This is my 2017 defensive line group. These guys donated their money and their time to make sure you guys have a special Christmas," he said.
They handed out advice.
"Always follow your dreams," Emanuel said.
"Keep your heads up," said Anthony Johnson. "Anything is possible, no matter how impossible it seems."
Then, they reached into their bags and pulled out brightly wrapped packages, calling out names and handing out gifts.
For the Colts defensive line, it's a holiday tradition.
"It's been six years. We started back when Cory Redding was here," said Emanuel. "It's been a tradition we've carried on and it's getting bigger and bigger each time."
"We took all our fine money throughout the season and gave it to a good cause," said Al Woods. "Throughout the season, all of that accumulated and a lot of guys put in extra to make all of this possible."
The smiles on the faces were all the thanks they needed.
"We're just happy that they're happy," Woods said.
As thankful as they were for the gifts, they were just as grateful for the time.
"Some of them grew up the same as us, some of them not the same as us," said one boy. "But they took time out of their day and they helped us. We thank them for that and we had a wonderful time."
That, said Wilburn, is the most valuable gift they gave.
"Because so many times, the message is that people don't care. That's been their experience," she said. "So when they have a different experience, it really makes that shift that there are people that care and that want to be involved in their lives and do step up to do that."
And the Colts were glad to be the ones to do it.
"Everybody thinks of us as machines and we don't feel, we don't hurt. But it's not true," said Woods. "To come out here and give these guys all this stuff and see their faces and toss the football around and give them memories, it makes all the difference in the world."
The gifts they gave were valuable. But the memories were priceless.
They're the gifts that keep on giving – for life.
"I'll never forget this," the boy said. "This is something we'll never forget."