SAN JOSE, Calif. - It was a very Merry Christmas for 400 underserved children and their families on Tuesday night. They were the 49ers’ special guests at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara for the team’s “Hope for the Holiday” event.
Awe and excitement were on the faces of the kids. For some of them, they’ve never been to Levi’s Stadium.
“It’s magical,” said Russell York of San Jose.
“It means a lot for me,” said Omar Omeragic of San Jose. “I can only imagine for them since the 49ers is organizing this.”
The 49ers home was transformed into “Niners Land.” Twenty-five players were on hand to spread holiday cheer. Each child walked away with early Christmas gifts including a brand new backpack, bike, shoes and toys not mention a simple haircut.
“It’s an opportunity for many of our kids to get a haircut,” said Albert Estrada of the Boy and Girls Club of Silicon Valley. “This time of year money is tight for many of our families and to save $15-20 to get a haircut is one thing.”
The Boys and Girls Club of Silicon Valley is one of nine nonprofits in the Bay Area benefitting from the 49ers “Hope for the Holiday” event. Many of the children said they are 49er fans.
The team is currently number one in the NFC division gaining popularity and fame. For some players, the event puts it all into perspective.
“With the success that we are having right now I feel it's so great to use that to give back to those who love us and give us so much support,” said 49ers Linebacker Fred Warner.
Offensive Lineman Ben Garland helped donate money to purchase bikes, helmets and locks. He said his favorite present growing up was a bike.
“We are out there having a blast and working hard on the field at the same time there are people who are having a really tough time right now during the holidays,” said Garland. “So just to take that moment and realize what others are going through and look from their shoes and hopefully help them as much as you can.”
“Football is our life, it is our livelihood and it's how we provide for our families, all that kind of stuff but it is just a game,” said 49ers Offensive Tackle Mike McGlinchey.
For many of the players, the event is just as rewarding to them as it is for the kids.
“It’s funny because I’m the old lineman and not many kids know who the hell I am,” said McGlinchey. “But them seeing George Kittle and other teammates they see catching touchdowns and stuff every Sunday, it means the world to them and that's why we do what we do.”