On Monday night, Dec. 5, Convoy of Hope and the 49ers invited over 1,000 guests-in-need to celebrate the holidays at Levi’s Stadium.
Convoy of Hope is an international, humanitarian-relief organization that responds to disasters as well as hosts community events. Families came from all over the Bay Area to enjoy this free event. Guests received shoes, a hot meal in the BNY Mellon Club West, family portraits, haircuts, health screenings and even groceries. There were three floors full of resources.
“It’s really to give people a day filled with hope,” said Jeff Nene, Convoy of Hope’s National Spokesperson. “[This time of year] suicide rates go up, people get discouraged and hopeless. We just want to bring hope into their lives and somehow convince them, ‘there’s a chance that tomorrow’s going to be better than today.'”
All hands were on deck for this event. Wide receiver Torrey Smith manned the shoe booth, tight end Vance McDonald welcomed guests, and punter Bradley Pinion was jolly Santa Claus. Many other players were scattered around the event taking pictures and signing autographs.
“Given the rough season, you know, here Monday after the game it’s really nice to be able to give back with our teammates and it helps us build the unity with us,” said McDonald.
The 49ers players, staff and ownership pitched in to provide the tables and tables of gifts for the kids. Smith feels grateful that he’s in a position to give back since his family benefited from similar events in his youth.
“I see myself in all these kids,” said Smith. “I can relate to them directly, I mean coming to things like this, especially over the holiday season. You know, receiving help from others at times, I mean, my family needed it at times.”
The event’s purpose was to bring holiday cheer, as well as resources, to these guests-in-need. Smith was in awe of how grateful everyone was.
“One lady, we had just run out of her son’s size,” said Smith. “And we had a size that was a little bit too big for him–like literally an entire size too big… I was like, ‘He can grow into this but it’s going to take some time.’ But she was like, ‘You know, we just really appreciate the fact that he has the opportunity to get this pair of shoes.’ I think it shows where her heart was. She could have complained… but she didn’t! She was just thankful.”
Guests were invited to take free health screenings. One booth was the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Volunteers taught women how to do breast exams on themselves. There were also booths for glucose tests and checking blood pressure.
Empire Barbershop, located in the East Bay, was on site giving the boys and men free haircuts. They had a goal of giving at least 100 haircuts.
“We came out today to support Convoy of Hope… and we’re just giving back to the community, giving out free haircuts, trying to make the kids feel real fresh. We had a great turn out today,” Owner of Empire Barbershop Derek Matos.
“One of the foundations for this type of event is the Guest of Honor principle,” said Nene. “When we told the 49ers about this, they jumped on it. They were all over it. And what it really boils down to–it’s simple–we want every guest to feel like they’re a guest in our home. We want to treat them with respect and dignity. Not rush them in and rush them out.”
Fun drills were set up on the field for the kids to try. The “Training Camp” is part of Levi’s Stadium’s Play 60 campaign where they encourage kids to be active for 60 minutes a day.
McDonald worked with Convoy of Hope two years ago when he went to Haiti with his wife.
“It just breaks you down,” said McDonald. “But to see how joyful they were down there, with so little they had, really was amazing.”
Earlier in the day, the Dancember crew was live streaming at the stadium. The live stream was part of their three-stop Dancember tour. Benji and Judy Travis are YouTubers who are working with Convoy of Hope to “Feed the Stadium” by raising enough money to feed 50,000 children. They are dancing all through December to meet their goal of $500,000.
Join Dancember on their 24-hour live broadcast on December 16th. Learn more or donate to their goal at: www.dancember.convoyofhope.org
Convoy of Hope believes that if children are fed, they are more likely to stay in school and work their way out of poverty. When food isn’t an issue, their families don’t have to pull them out of school to earn money for food, according to Nene.