PATERSON, NJ - Amani Toomer donned his pads and helmet and suited up in the deep blue, red, and white 190 times over the course of a successful thirteen year career, setting team records in receiving yards, receptions, and touchdowns.
And on Saturday, the Super Bowl winner, who looks as though he could still outrun some defenders into the end zone, was back in Paterson taking part in a book bag drive that helped prepare 500 local students for the new school year. The effort, he said, would be just one of many that he hopes to participate in to help advance the renaissance of “a community with a lot of potential.”
Having recently met with Mayor Andre Sayegh, who’s passion for Paterson, Toomer told TAPinto Paterson “exudes when he speaks about its future,” the football legend said he was at Tyrone Collins Park at the invitation at of his college teammate, and longtime friend, Shawn Collins, whose father the park is named after.
“People want to Paterson to be better,” Toomer said, before continuing that he was happy to meet and support the residents that “represent that.”
“This is a community with a lot of potential,” Collins, a teacher at Great Falls Academy offered.
While Toomer may have been the only one in the crowd to have the title professionally, with several community organizations such as Growing in Grace Counseling Group, Murture Sisters, Her Best Self, the Willie Peterkin Foundation, and Princess to Queen helping to organize the effort he was far from the only giant in attendance.
“A true community collaboration,” is how Bridget Arrick, Founder of PIFFY described the gathering, adding that it was also meant to “challenge the children to succeed in school.”
Among the parents at Tyrone Collins Park were Shakirah Stewart, Melissa Stewart, and Jessica Jackson who also shared similar appreciation for the event for “bringing the community together.”
“It shows we can do anything,” Melissa said of the effort, adding her belief that even in the wake of recent violence she has confidence that “a lot of good things are coming back,” to Paterson under the new leadership of Sayegh and his administration.
For Roshawn Davis, Public Relations Director, Bronze Heat, an organization that represents Paterson’s African American firefighters the book bag giveaway was a chance to bring “positivity and new energy” to Tyrone Collins Park. He also hoped that the opportunity for the children to meet Toomer would give them a vision of “something to accomplish.”
“It’s always about the community, always about giving back,” he said before returning his attention to his son and daughter that had joined their father for the special event.