NEWARK, NJ - Two members of the New York Giants were on hand in Newark on Monday to give out more than 100 coats to children living at the city’s YMCA center.
NFL Cornerback Antonio Hamilton and safety Sean Chandler shared their own stories growing up in families in need, highlighting the importance of giving back to communities after having overcome similar battles.
“I come from very humble beginnings,” Hamilton told the families sitting on bleachers in the YMCA’s gymnasium. “Growing up, I went from house to house, shelter to shelter, actually. I just know how special it is to have a coat during the wintertime.”
Hamilton, who comes from Johnston, South Carolina, said he hoped to provide “different words of encouragement to the families that have a harder time of getting adjusted with life, period.”
“I, too, grew up in a real small town, which is very poor,” Johnston told TAPInto Newark. “I was blessed with the opportunity, with good parenting and my grandparents, to push me to keep going forward so I could get the opportunity to do something.”
For Chandler, a native of Camden, the notion of handing out coats to kids in need hit close to home because it is an effort to offer children a basic need -- staying warm in the winter.
“This is something big even though it’s something small,” Chandler said.
Michael C. Bright, the president and CEO of Newark’s YMCA, said it houses about 400 people every night, including the 135 children that participated in Monday’s coat drive.
The YMCA, which Bright said was the largest family shelter in the region, partners with a variety of charities, particularly close to the holidays, to provide its families with food, toys and school supplies.
“Housing is just a fraction of the need,” Bright said.
The coats were paid for by the New Jersey chapter of UnitedHealthcare. It donated money to the Dreambuilders Foundation, an non-profit organization that partners athletes with corporate sponsors looking to partake in a variety of projects and programs in communities in need around the country.
Dreambuilders was founded by former NFL linebacker Akin Ayodele. It’s mission is to work with pro athletes across the country to provide resources to kids in need including clothing drives, shoe drives and playground renovations.
Dreambuilders Executive Director Ryan Altizer, said the combination of athletes and companies administering such events “really have a capacity to do a lot of good.”
“When we get an opportunity to be able to put items, in this case coats, in the hands of kids that need them, which is definitely the case here with this group of kids, that’s a success for us,” Altizer said.