Posted on: November 26, 2008 7:03 am

A Real Christmas Present

“A lot of people [in Galveston] just pretty much lost everything, and to help them have a Thanksgiving, I think it’s very great. They can have a smile on their face on Thanksgiving." - Andre Johnson

Now's the time when we start thinking about the holidays. Some of us would think about what we want for Christmas. Some of us will think about how will we be able to afford what kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, husbands, wives etc want for Christmas. Tomorrow we will sit around with relatives (some we might not really care for) and eat food and watch football and think about how nice it will be not to see some of these people for another year.

Will we think about the fact that some people will not have a Thanksgiving or a Christmas?

Thanks to Hurricane Ike, many people lost everything. Their homes. Their security. Their hope. Last week, three Houston Texans tried to give some of that back. Johnson teamed with DeMeco Ryans and Dunta Robinson in donating 750 Thanksgiving meals to families in need. During their “Giving Thanks With Andre, DeMeco & Dunta” event across the street from Reliant Stadium, the players packaged and distributed turkeys along with soft drinks, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, rolls and browniesThey were joined by a few teammates, the Texans cheerleaders and TORO (the Texans mascot) as well as volunteers from H-E-B and Texas State University. Frenchy’s Chicken provided refreshments for the workers during the three-hour-long event.

Johnson and Ryans hosted a similar event last year, donating groceries to 200 families prior to Thanksgiving. They approached Robinson about joining their efforts, and he was happy to join them and help provide Thanksgiving meals for more than triple the amount of families this year.

“We’ve become a part of Houston and a part of this community,” Robinson said. “Houston has been through a lot with the storm coming through a couple of months ago, so we know for this time of the year, a lot of people are in need. And we’re happy to be able to come out here and do our part.”

“We can definitely relate to this,” Ryans said. “[As kids], we were in families that didn’t have much. But when people came around to help, we were appreciative of the help we got from other people. It just shows how people working together can do a lot of things and can help each other.”

The Lady Texans, a group comprised of Houston Texans spouses and female front office members, teamed with HEB to help raise money to feed families for the Thanksgiving holiday. The Lady Texans presented a check for $5,697.00 after their first-ever Lady Texans Turkey Drive. All proceeds from the event will go to purchase turkeys for area families in need through Target Hunger, an affiliate of the United Way. The funds will help to feed more than 350 Houston families that otherwise would not have had a meal this holiday season.

That brings me to a 7-year old boy from Bolivia named Fernando Veizaga. Fernando lives on the plains of Minero, home to approximately 13,000 residents. Typical houses are constructed of cement with corrugated iron roofs. The regional diet consists of bananas, bread, cassava, beef, plantains and rice. Common health problems in this are include malnutrition, parasites and colds. Most adults in Minero work on plantations or as taxi drivers and earn the equivalent of $87 per month. Fernando's parents are separated and he lives with his mother who sometimes is employed. There are so many interesting things about Bolivia. January is their heat wave month and July is their cold weather month. Many Bolivians who attend school only go for six years. It is considered a privilege to have an educated person in the family.

But the most important thing about Fernando Veizaga is that he is now my own personal Christmas present. Through an organization called Compassion, I am now sponsoring Fernando.

Many times we applaud stories about pro athletes who take the time to give to charity or do other things for the community. Other times we criticize them for wasting money "making it rain" in a night club when that money could be used for better things. But then what do we do ourselves? The truth of the matter is that the poorest poor person in the United States has it better than the families of those like Fernando Veizaga. And I am far from being that bad off.

It's easy to sit back and complain about anything. Whether it be the economy or the play calling, the president or the head coach, the weather or the trunovers, but so many things we complain about we really have such little impact on. But there are so many things we do have an impact on that we can do to better ourselves and the world around us. Whether it be a sick neighbor in need of some yard work or a fund raiser to help students improve their educational opportunities, we can do something.

Kudos to all the professional athletes who are doing something positive this week and the next month to encourage the spirit of the holidays. But you don't have to be Andre Johnson to feed someone who won't eat tomorrow otherwise. Even a Toxic Blogger can pitch in and help.

(sources: houstontexans.com , compassion.com )



Category: General
Tags: Charity, Holidays
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com