A group of 20 children from the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of NYC got an extra special gift this Christmas. The group of youngsters, mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds, were treated to a Christmas eve lunch with New York Giants' quarterback Kerry Collins. Collins met with the group for two hours on Sunday as he doled out his message of hope and inspiration to the kids along with a bevy of autographed Giants paraphernalia.
"Big Brothers/Big Sisters has been working with these kids for a long time and it's easy to see how big a difference they make in their lives" Collins explained. It's great to see these kids reactions and realize that in some small way that you are making a impact on their lives."
The Big Brothers/Big Sisters of New York City (BBBS of NYC) is a formalized mentoring program that matches qualified adults with school aged children in need of an older role model. Created in 1904 BBBS of NYC is the first mentoring program in the United States. Most of the children involved with BBBS of NYC come from either single parent households or from at risk situations making the mentors work even more important. Volunteers traditionally spend 6-10 hours a week with their children while their relationships often last a lifetime.
What makes Kerry's involvement with BBBS of NYC so special is that he isn't just another athlete making a donation and quick appearance. Collins knows first hand what it's like to be down and what it takes to pull yourself back up. Collins has a real message to deliver to these kids and when the star quarterback of the New York Giants talks these kids listen.
Collins started off the festivities by addressing the kids with his message of hope and perseverance. Collins related his own stories of how he helped to overcome his personal problems. "Learning about yourself and always being proud of who you are" were two of the messages that Collins imparted to his audience.
"These kids all know about Kerry's problems before he came to the Giants and they all know what kind of person he is today" said Andre Pabon, the director of BBBS of NYC. When Kerry talks these kids listen because they know that he speaks from experience. When these kids see that Kerry Collins thinks that they are important enough for him to spend time with them on Christmas eve, it makes them feel important. It gives them a sense of hope that hopefully they can carry on with them."
While Collins sat on a couch he looked more like someone who was waiting for an autograph rather than the main attraction that everybody had come to see. Collins easy going demeanor quickly let the children know that interaction with the star quarterback was in the game plan. As a group of children surrounded him on all sides Kerry started to answer all their questions in his sheepish manner. Collins patiently answers all the kids questions ranging from whether he really hates the Jets (no), to why doesn't he wear his Giants helmet all the time.
Even though Collins is one day removed from his team clinching home field advantage throughout the playoffs, he still realizes that all his on the field accomplishments pale in comparison to being able to make a difference in just one of these children's lives. "Success on the field is great" stated Collins, but being able to influence these kids is something else. Seeing these kids enjoy themselves makes me proud and thankful that I'm able to help"
"Meeting Kerry is a real treat" said Tiffany, one of the little sisters that attended the lunch. Talking to these kids it's easy to get an idea about how much their time with their mentors means to them. "We talk about everything," Tiffany explained. "Stuff that is going on in school, at home, my mentor is a big part of my life."
The kids aren't the only ones that will learn something today, as Mohamed is kind enough to demonstrate for Collins his end zone celebration dance. Collins chuckles at the end zone moves before he is pressed to divulge his own end zone antics. "I ride the bull" exclaims Collins to his mass of listeners. "Haven't you kids ever seen me ride the bull?" Collins face lights up when he starts to talk about riding the bull and he gets half way out of his chair to demonstrate his move before he realizes that there are other adults around and slides back into his chair. "You guys know riding the bull, haven't you all seen Happy Gilmore?" Collins asks.
At the end of the day all of the kids thank the quarterback for all he's done as they gather their belongings and get set to go home. Only two hours has gone by but it's a two hours that these kids will remember forever.
As part of Kerry's committment to give back to the New York Community, Collins will donate over $10,000 worth of jackets, sweatshirts, hats and other assorted winter clothing items to the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization of New York. Christmas 2000