With a “Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!” the Colts defensive line crashed a pizza party in the Colts pavilion and turned it into a Christmas party.
On Tuesday night, the Colts invited 10 boys to visit the practice facility, take a tour, and eat dinner. What they didn’t know was that they were actually guests of the linemen, who wanted to give back to some older kids.
“A lot of people want to worry about the little kids, the younger kids. And that’s fine,” said nose tackle Zach Kerr. “But what people don’t realize is that when kids get to this age is when they really start to have feelings and they really start to understand life and they really start to understand, ‘Oh, I don’t have parents like these guys. I don’t have this like these other guys.’”
The kids are part of the Collaborative Care unit of the Indiana Department of Child Services.
“These are kids that have grown up either in our system or come into our system later in life – 14, 15, 16, up to 18 years old,” said Stacy Lozer with DCS. “They’re the kids that won’t necessarily find that forever family.”
They’re kids moving into adulthood without supportive adult role models in their life. And that’s where the Colts come in.
“They’re big guys and it’s kind of intimidating,” said Lozer. “But when they broke it down and they said, ‘Look, I’ve been where you are, write your goals down, you’ve got a lot ahead of you.’ And just that little bit of encouragement, just somebody else instead of a teacher or a case manager, an adult telling them something like write your goals down and keep them will make a difference in these kids’ lives.”
They’re big guys with even bigger hearts.
“I’m proud of these guys,” said defensive line coach Gary Emanuel. “They do a great job. They started, a lot of them, where you guys are at and look where they are now.”
Kerr was one of those kids.
“I’ve been there. I have,” he said. “I think it’s really important to give these kids something they can look forward to. You look at their circumstances and I don’t think there’s a better way we can help them out than by showing them that there is somebody that cares about them.”
The players gifted the kids with practical stuff – coats and shoes and also fun stuff – games and electronics.
The life advice was a bonus.
“I told him, ‘Get those books right. Because this football stuff could change your life,’” said Kerr. “It changed mine.”
In the end, the biggest gift was time spent with great role models.
“They don’t have to do these things, but yet they chose older children, they chose to give back, they chose to share, and even their presence was probably more important than their presents that they handed them,” Lozer said.
And the final gift was to start the year at Lucas Oil Stadium on New Year’s Day.
“We’ve got two tickets for each one of you guys for the last home game of this season,” Emanuel told them as they broke out in cheers.
As Lozer said, they may be grown kids, but they’re still kids at heart. And they still want to know that someone cares.
“Any time of the year it feels good to give,” Kerr said. “But especially around this time. It brings families together and unfortunately for these guys, they don’t have that.”
But now, they do.
“They can be my family for a lifetime,” said Kerr. “It doesn’t just have to be today.”
For the Colts, the season of giving is all year long.