Today was the Redskins’ annual toy distribution. The locker room at FedExField was transformed into a Santa’s workshop, and Redskins players joined with US Marines to hand out toys to 1,100 kids in need from the D.C. area through the Touchdowns For Tots program. (That’s the new name for the football arm of the reliable Toys For Tots program.) http://www.toysfortots.org/
This has been an excellent event every time I’ve attended — the kids are thrilled to receive the toys, to see the players, and often just to be in the Redskins locker room. (Frequently, their teachers are even more excited about all of those things, and today was no exception: a woman with graying hair and a Marcus Washington jersey greeted Ryan Torain with an effusive “Thank you, thank you, THANK you for coming along and saving our running game.”)
And today’s event had an added wrinkle, a story that sounded far more like it came from Hollywood than from its actual place of origin, Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Amber Franklin is a precocious eight-year old girl with slightly reddish blonde hair, freckles, and a notable first item on her Christmas wishlist. “Basically, we had a group of orphans visit our church,” Amber’s father Tommy explains, “kids that were in need and things. Amber was at that event and saw that, and when we asked her for her Christmas list, the first thing on the list was ‘Money for kids.’ She wanted to give money to other kids that were needy.”
The Franklins already had a relationship with the Redskins Charitable Foundation; at a charity auction, Tommy Franklin had been the high bidder on the chance to be a kickoff kid, and Amber had actually served as the kickoff kid at the Monday night debacle against the Eagles. (“Yeah, bad game to be at,” Tommy acknowledges ruefully.)
The upshot of that experience, though, was that the Franklins had an idea of who to reach out to when they were looking for a way to make Amber’s Christmas wish a reality. Tommy Franklin has had a good year with his two Fredericksburg-based businesses, so they had the financial means; to handle the logistics, they reached out to their kickoff kid point of contact: Brittany Ginn with the Redskins Charitable Foundation.
“The biggest thing,” Ginn explains, “is that we and the Franklin family both wanted Amber to see kind of how her money and her donation was going to help kids. So we invited them out here to do a check presentation, but also mainly for the family-specifically Amber-to see these kids in need get a toy, through people supporting the Touchdown for Tots campaign.”
And so she did. “I think it’s really going to be an eye-opener for her to realize that there are some kids that just don’t have what she has been blessed to have,” Amber’s mother Judy says. “It’s a good experience for her to realize, hey, there’s some out there that don’t have toys for everything that they do good, or for good report card, or whatever.”
The family stayed for the entire course of the event, meeting players, helping kids select toys, and presenting the Marines with a check for $2,500 for Toys For Tots.
“As a parent, it’s very humbling of course to realize that your child-your 8-year-old child-wants to put other kids before herself on Christmas,” Judy says. “Normally, Christmas is all about me-me-me-me.”
Everyone who met Amber came away impressed, including Tanya Snyder, wife of Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. “She is going to inspire kids, starting with mine, to make a difference,” Snyder said. “My eight-year-old son is here and he was very impressed and very proud of her. I love it when a child steps up and makes a difference like that. Hopefully, everybody will take note and other kids will follow suit. I think it’s so great.”
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