It’s the season of giving, meaning it’s Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr.’s time to shine. With only days to go before Christmas, the Broncos’ Walter Payton Man of the Year continued to show why he has earned the honor.
For the past five years, Harris has hosted his “Shop With a Jock” event for local children in need during the holidays. The 50 children, all part of the Denver Children’s Home or Salvation Army programs, each receive a $150 gift card to Wal-Mart in order to find gifts for themselves and their families.
On Tuesday Harris hosted the event less than 24 hours after his annual “Holidays with the Harrises” fundraiser, where he and Broncos teammates host a dinner and auctions to fundraise for the Chris Harris Jr. Foundation. Despite the long evening very close in his rear-view mirror, Harris was energized and excited as the 50 children eagerly anticipated his arrival.
“It’s better for me to be able to interact with them, talk to them and play really,” Harris said before he met the kids. “It brings me back to my childhood days. That’s what we do it for; these are the days why we have those events, so I can be able to do more with them and be able to impact them and even give them a better experience.”
Just inside a small room at the Parker Wal-Mart, the 50 kids finish eating a dinner catered by Red Robin, each one watching the door in anticipation of Harris’ arrival. Even Harris himself, as he prepared to join the kids, visibly shows his own excitement through smiles, jokes and friendly exchanges with those outside of the room.
The energy exploded as Harris entered the room, kids cheered, excitement filled the room and before any shopping was done, holiday wishes had been fulfilled. Several children joined Harris, while his wife, Leah, and several other Salvation Army volunteers escorted everyone else through the store.
Memories were made as Harris and his group made their way through the aisles, finding toys and joy that would otherwise be hard — if not impossible — to come by otherwise. At every opportunity, Harris stopped for photos and to play and interact with the other children who were shopping.
But the important part of the event is the impact it had on the children.
“It was really, really fun,” said King, one of the kids who shopped with Harris himself. “He took us wherever we wanted to go.”
King was one of many children invited to the event for their first time. He was excited to have a chance to play with all of the toys he was able to find with Harris, including several NERF toys, trucks and cars.
A pair of siblings, Elian and Giovanni, were also first-timers to the event. When they found out they would have a chance to shop with Harris, their holidays were more than made.
“I fainted,” Elian said about when he found out he’d be taking part in the festivities.
“I thought it was going to be so fun that we can actually get real presents,” Giovanni said.
Elian and Giovanni found several gifts for themselves, and although they weren’t with the group that shopped with Harris himself, the toys they had found for themselves made this one of their favorite holiday seasons.
But it wasn’t just about helping themselves out, but their families as well. A young boy, Ryan, used the opportunity to get his mother a pair of slippers for Christmas. Elian, meanwhile, ended the trip spending just $43 for himself.
The rest of Elian’s gift card? It’s going to his parents.
“I’m giving my $107.00 left to them,” he said.
That’s the true spirit of the season, made possible by Chris Harris Jr.