On Tuesday, the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation hosted its annual Skins Santa Shoppe for more than 200 local children that were treated to a special afternoon at FedExField.
Candy canes and Christmas trees transformed the club level of FedExField to a winter wonderland for the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation's (WRCF) annual Skins Santa Shoppe event on Tuesday.
With support from a variety of 'elves', including nine Redskins players, four cheerleaders, members of the U.S. Marine Corps, wives of Redskins players and coaches along with volunteers from Applebee's Bar & Grill and Amphora Bakery, more than 200 elementary school children from District of Columbia Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince George's County Public Schools were able to celebrate Christmas a few weeks early.
Among the players in attendance were offensive linemen Brandon Scherff, Arie Kouandjio and Isaiah Williams, kicker Dustin Hopkins, quarterback Colt McCoy, linebacker Houston Bates, wide receiver Ryan Grant and defensive backs Lee Hightower and Tye Smith. The players teamed up to first serve lunch provided by Applebee's and Potomac Family Dining Group, before leading students through four festive holiday stations.
From the beginning of the day, the excitement was obvious from the children, who shouted, "Hail to the Redskins," and cheered as the players and cheerleaders were introduced. There were multiple exclaims of, "This is the best day ever!" throughout the afternoon.
"It's been a blast seeing these kids just enjoy the day like this," Scherff said while his group decorated cupcakes.
Northpole Cupcake Decorating, presented by Amphora Bakery, was one of the three stations on the club level at FedExField. Students also decorated players and Marines as human Christmas trees complete with lights and garland, and visited the Candy Cane Forest where students dressed up with different masks and props for a holiday photo booth before making their own candy cane ornament to take home.
The Redskins Charitable Foundation hosted 200 elementary school kids at the annual Skins Santa Shoppe. They received a plated lunch courtesy of Applebee's and Potomac Family Dining Group.
Most of the excitement came in the Redskins locker room, where Santa Claus was waiting to help students find their personalized gifts, tucked away in the Redskins' lockers. Marines and cheerleaders assisted in making sure each student found their locker before everyone opened presents simultaneously, setting off a series of cheers and squeals as Barbies, basketballs, board games and more were unwrapped.
"It's the holiday season and not everybody is as fortunate as others," Bates said. "Any time we can put a smile on their faces during the holiday season, it's very important. It's special to me. It's my favorite event – I came last year – it's really special to be helping the community."
The event hit especially close to home for Kouandijo, who grew up in Prince George's County, and is now able to give back to an area he knows so well.
"It's crazy, I'm meeting little kids from my backyard," Kouandijo said. "I don't live too far from here. I live 20 minutes from here and these kids all go to school a few minutes from here. I don't know really how to explain it."
The common theme among the players was the joy of being able to see the smiles that were on each child's face as they opened up presents or decorated cupcakes.
"It feels good," Scherff said of seeing the smiling faces. "If you can make one kid's day, you're having a pretty good day."