Normally, when Redskins linebacker Zach Vigil enters the locker room at FedExField, it contains jerseys and the essentials needed for gameday. On Tuesday, that same locker room had a more festive feel as Vigil stepped inside.
“Yes! Santa,” Vigil proclaimed as he spotted the jolly figure sitting in a chair inside the room.
He wasn’t the only one who was in the holiday spirit, as the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation hosted 200 elementary school students from District of Columbia, Fairfax County and Prince George’s County Public Schools for its annual Skins Santa Shoppe, leaving smiles on the faces of all in attendance.
“It’s so much fun. Especially being able to come out and here and experience all this with all these kids, it brings a lot of joy to your heart,” offensive lineman Chase Roullier said while perched up on Santa’s chair. “It’s just a very exciting time.”
The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation hosted 200 elementary students, who also received lunch served by the players and cheerleaders. After lunch, students were divided into small groups where they rotated through four fun, holiday activity stations.
The day began with a lunch for the students, where they were introduced to their group leaders. Redskins cheerleaders, alumni including Ravin Caldwell, Ken Jenkins and Josh Morgan, U.S. Marine Corps, and wives of players and coaches. Vigil and Roullier, as well as wide receivers Simmie Cobbs Jr. and Darvin Kidsy also assisted with the festivities.
From station to station, the children participated in different holiday themed activities. One featured a place to decorate an ornament as well as a photo booth where students could dress up in whacky accessories and take pictures with their friends and players. Another allowed them to pick out a Build-A-Bear bear dressed in Redskins gear or different holiday attire.
One of the fan favorites was the KIDBOX station, in which students were able to select new clothes from KIDBOX, a company that offers stylish clothing options and focuses on helping deliver outfits to those in need. The station also featured comedy magician Chris Michael, who quickly became a hit with both the children and players.
Pulling coins out of all places, making things disappear and swallowing a whole balloon, Michaels had everyone in attendance captivated.
“It was pretty catchy,” Cobbs Jr. said. “I liked it.”
However, Santa’s workshop was the spot that stole the show. Situated in the locker room that had Vigil excited, the children shared the same emotions. Following a meeting with Santa himself, the students scattered to a player’s locker, where a personalized gift awaited each and every one of them. As Santa let out a “Ho Ho Ho” to signify the opening of the gifts, happiness ensued.
“Just to see the kids’ faces when they got to meet Santa Claus is pretty cool,” Kidsy said. “It’s a blessing to be a blessing.”
“Oh my gosh, they were so excited to come,” Glenridge Elementary School Administrator Wendy Nixon added. “It’s such a blessing, a lot of our kids don’t even get out of the neighborhood. So, it’s really nice to bring them here.”
For the students in attendance, the event allowed them to meet potential role models while celebrating the holidays, something Nixon believed to be the most beneficial part of the Shoppe. To Cobbs Jr., it was something he took to heart. Growing up in Chicago, he attended similar events and was excited to repay the favor.
“It’s always special. When you’re a child, your imagination is so huge and sometimes you just need to see the people that you look up to and actually see them in person,” Cobbs Jr. said. “It means a lot more than you can actually think to the children, and so that’s why I just want to be that person for them. Even if they don’t know me, I can be a representation of the football team as a player. Just to make their days, it’s fun.”
The relationship was a mutually beneficial one, according to the players. While they have the opportunity to impact the youth, the children have provided their own positive impact on members of the Redskins. Being able to play a part in the joy the students experienced is something they all take great pride in.
“I mean, it’s amazing whenever you have the opportunity to see kids that happy just from such little things. Just you being able to come out here and just talk to some kids, just get to know them a little bit,” Roullier said. “It’s a lot of fun for us, and I know it’s a lot of fun for them. It makes your heart so happy to be able to come out here and do that.”
From eating pizza to watching magic tricks to meeting Santa, this year’s Skins Santa Shoppe provided many with unforgettable memories. For a few hours, FedExField became a winter wonderland filled with laughter and cheer, something all in attendance could appreciate.
“This is what we’re supposed to do,” former Redskins running back Ken Jenkins said. “This is how we should share our blessings with the community.”