By Morgan Robertson
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- At 12pm on Tuesday July 24th, 30 bustling kids burst through the door at Academy Sports + Outdoors at Rivergate.
Wesley Woodyard, Titans cheerleaders and T-RAC welcomed kids from Fannie Battle Day Home for Kids and McGruder Family Resource Center. Tuesday was their day to shop 'til they dropped. The Shop with a Titan event was a crazy success.
For the Shop with a Titan event, Woodyard provided $100 for 30 kids from these family resource centers. Academy also pitched in and provided $100 for each child. In total, the kids received $200 to shop for school supplies, athletic wear and toys.
The children, with chaperones in tow, arrived in a large blue tour bus. Kids filed off the bus and were led down a tunnel of cheerleaders, Titans staff, and Academy staff who welcomed them to the event. T-RAC also made an appearance as he ruffled kids' hair and gave high fives. Kids ran up to take pictures and say their hi's, hello's, and how are you's to Woodyard and the cheerleaders.
The group huddled together for a group photo before the kids split off to shop. Staff and store employees glided down the aisle with two or three kids in tow as they pulled shoes off shelves and clothes off of hangers.
Titans LB Wesley Woodyard teamed with Academy Sports + Outdoors and United Way to help 30 children from the McGruder Family Resource Center and Fannie Battle Day Home shop for back to school items on Tuesday. (Photos: Gary Glenn, Jordyn Brobst)
Katherine Massey, the grants manager of the Fannie Battle Day Home for Children, said this afternoon was all about the kids. "An afternoon where they can hang-out with someone who is so aspirational for them. I know a lot of the kids talk about wanting to be a football player, to be an athlete. They get to ride in a bus, they get to buy whatever they want. it means a lot to be special for a day. I know for a lot of the parents, it's a huge relief because they don't really get to do stuff like this for their kids really ever…an amazing opportunity."
Two boys took advantage of Academy's football display by putting on pads and smiling for a picture. For them to be near a professional football player was a real eye-opening experience. Woodyard said of the event, "Going back to school is one of the most exciting things in a kid's life. You know, that long summer break and just being enthusiastic about going back to school. What's a better way to get back into school than getting free stuff." Woodyard and the Titans believe that it is important to support those families who are working to make better lives for themselves.
The Fannie Battle Day Home for Children, along with the McGruder Family Resource Center, work to support parents who are trying to get back on their feet and create better lives for themselves and for their children. Massey said, "We are a family empowerment center. We have two locations, Fannie Battle, which is the day care center and McGruder, which is the family resource center in the middle of Nashville. The goal is to support any parent that is looking to get a better paying job or go back to school getting a GRE or associates degree or any parent who wants to advance themselves in those ways then they enter the program and we work them on those goals."
This event was an opportunity for kids who don't have a lot of resources to gain a lot of confidence and support in one day. Titans marketing and sponsorship services associate Amanda Sowa said of the event, "We are so proud of the long-standing relationship between Academy Sports + Outdoors and the Titans, specifically the Back to School shopping events we host yearly at local stores. Academy is always generous enough to match the donation from Titans players to help out even more children."
At the end of the day, Woodyard said, "To me, it's very important that we continue to motivate and inspire our children to go to school and the importance of having a good education. Having a chance to take kids shopping for back to school, it means a lot to me." His hope for these kids was that they could "take away that it doesn't matter who you are, that you can always do a kind deed for somebody, and that they would spread more love."
Woodyard went on to say, "My foundation, 16 Ways, we focus heavily on inspiring our youth. Just like myself, somebody had to pour into my life to help me reach my dreams and to become the man I am today. It's very important that we continue to motivate our children and show them that there is somebody out there that they may not even know that wants to see them be successful in life and see them succeed. This is another way that I can use my effort to get in front of children and say, 'yes I am a professional athlete, but I am somebody that cares and loves the community and wants to see the community do great. and our children are our future.'"