LONG BEACH, CA-Christmas comes but once a year. The widely-celebrated holiday came a couple of weeks early for some Long Beach, California students. Pupils at Cesar Chavez Elementary School had no idea what they were getting into when a special assembly was called on Tuesday, Dec. 4.
All the 150 students being ushered into the Long Beach school’s auditorium knew was that it had something to do with the essay contest they participated in that called for them to identify what they wanted to achieve in life or hope to be when they grow up someday.
They sat in rows and waited to see what the fuss would be about. After moments of preliminary talk from their principle and other guests, 300 pair of eyes lit up like lights on a Christmas tree when members of the Los Angeles Chargers strode through their little canvas with brand new bikes and greeted them.
Screams of hysteria consumed the auditorium as Chargers players handed out hi-fives and shook hands with the students.
“It brightens your day,” Chargers placekicker Michael Badgley said. “It’s one of those things where no matter…everyone is going through something different, but you get a chance to give back and it’s one of those things that makes your day because you’re changing people’s lives by doing something like this. Just to be out here was awesome. The expressions on their faces brightened my day.”
That glare got a bit wider as an informal event turned formal ceremony unfolded. The Chargers players were on hand to help distribute the new bikes to several of the top essay winners. The applause for those who had their essays read and their names called was very generous from the students that didn’t hear their names called. But then the drama started to build.
Each time a name was read, each time a bike was distributed, and a pose with Chargers players took place, other students started to get antsy and began ramping up the noise for another winner to to be called. It started with one, went to two, jumped up to three.
When the fourth and fifth bike was passed out, things got more interesting…finally after several more bikes were distributed, it was announced that the rest of the students-rather all the students-would receive a new bike.
It was a very Merry Christmas moment to say the least as an eruption of tears rolled down the faces of some excited students. Euphoria certainly gripped the place as indescribable expressions and smiles took hold of other students. It was a good day for everyone, particularly the players the Chargers organization brought down to take part in the event.
“It’s a great opportunity, not only for us but for the kids,” said Chargers defensive back Brandon Facyson. “They all deserve a bike. That’s definitely what we wanted to do out here. We wanted to read off a couple of the kids’ papers and give them the opportunity to be proud… I think they all were pretty excited.”
Chargers cornerback Michael Davis seemed just as enthusiastic as the students being on the receiving end of the generous charity gift.
“We had a lot of fun,” Davis said. “I just love seeing those kids faces, especially when we were showing the bikes; some of the kids were crying. It makes me happy to see them stoked.”
Hugo Figueroa, the principle at Cesar Chavez Elementary, didn’t hold back his thoughts about the planned surprise for his students.
“It was an amazing day for our kids,” Figueroa said. “I think they’ll remember this for a long time. This was better than what I expected. I’m sure everybody will be talking about this for a while. I saw kids crying, I saw kids shocked. I saw kids who couldn’t control their emotions. It kind of made me emotional watching them. That was the best part-watching their faces.”
The bikes the students received came courtesy of the Chargers and the team’s corporate partner California Resources Company (CRC). Badgley was wowed by the chance to do something special for these students.
“This is an awesome opportunity to come out here,” Badgley said. “I get a chance to give back and to see those kids’ faces when everybody’s getting a bike. You try to think about when you were back in elementary school and stuff like this…it’s the little things that will get you excited. To see the look on their face and see how hard all these kids worked on all these essays, it’s an awesome opportunity to be able to do this.”
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers the NFL, NBA, MLB, racial and social justice, civil rights, and HBCUs. Dennis earned a journalism degree from “The Mecca” aka Howard University. “I write on what I am passionate about.”