'Tis the season for many things -- holiday cheer, snow shoes, an excessive amount of baked goods. Most importantly, however, it is the season for giving back to others, and the Patriots have taken that to heart. Since the beginning of December, Patriots players have spent countless hours in the community, whether they volunteered at a holiday party with the Patriots Foundation or hosted events of their own.
With the holidays and 2020 quickly approaching, the guys have stepped it up even more. Check out how they have been spending their time in service to others.
Gifts from the Gridiron
Gifts from the Gridiron is a Patriot tradition where players are partnered with local children in need. They are given a shopping list, a calculator and a $400 gift card to get a new coat, gloves and a gift for someone else at Bass Pro Shops. In partnership with the Patriots Foundation, Devin McCourty sponsors the event and recruits his teammates to come out and help local kids shop.
On Dec. 17, the tradition lived on, and McCourty said this continues to be one of his favorite nights of the year.
"Coming in as a young guy, it was one of the best events I think of the year that I went to. Mainly because you take these kids shopping, and obviously, one of the requirements is that you get a gift for someone else," he said. "Just to see how much thought they put into who they want to get a gift for, what they want to get, I think that's when you see the true essence of these kids who are less fortunate, but all they want to do is give."
McCouty was joined by dozens of current and former Patriots, including his brother Jason, Duron Harmon, Matthew Slater, Deatrich Wise Jr., Rex Burkhead, Kyle Van Noy, Justin Bethel, Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, Andre Tippett, Joe Andruzzi, Matt Chatham and more.
"I think it shows how important this event is by the amount of people that come and enjoy being here," McCourty said. "I don't think people come, like, 'Man, I got to go to that thing.' Everyone that comes here really enjoys spending an hour and a half with a young person."
As the pairs walked around the store, crossing item after item off their lists, it was clear the kids weren't the only ones having a blast. When Van Noy and his group hit the sunglasses area of the store, they paused their shopping to have fun and try on different shades. After all three settled on the ones they liked best, Van Noy grabbed his wallet and gifted them a new pair of sunglasses each.
"It's good bro. I got you," he said as he cashed out. "Don't even trip."
After the groups finished up shopping, it was time to wrap the gifts they got for someone else, which proved to be a feat. Derek Rivers and his new friend were tasked with wrapping a fishing pole. Others had sweatshirts, toys and jewelry, and as they cut paper and liberally applied tape, it brought out a life lesson, according to Thuney.
"This shows everyone has strengths and weaknesses," he said. "The best thing to do is work together."
A December to Remember
They may no longer play for the same NFL team, but when it comes to creating a positive difference, there's only one side to be on. The Jets Brandon Copeland, who played with Jason McCourty in Tennessee and Kyle Van Noy in Detroit, hosts an annual shopping event where he brings kids in New Jersey shopping at Target for the holidays. This year, he wanted to make it bigger and better.
So he called in reinforcements.
On Dec. 16, Jason McCourty, Devin McCourty and Kyle Van Noy brought dozens of kids from the Key Program shopping at Target in Plainville, and in Oakland, Baltimore, Tampa and Dallas, Copeland's former teammates hosted similar events over the course of the week.
"It's pretty cool. Brandon Copeland is a younger guy. I happened to be a vet on the team when he got there, so [it's bee cool] to see the things he's ben able to do," Jason McCourty said. "I think it's really cool to be able to be a part of that and be a small part of this evening. I think ultimately to be able help with the holidays for somebody who might be a little less fortunate I think is the main thing and the best part of all."
When the kids from the Key Program arrived, they were treated to a bag of Patriots gear, pizza and time to hang out with the guys, then they grabbed a cart and got to work. From toys for their siblings and gifts for family members to treats for themselves, the group found solid shopping partners in the Patriots. It helps to have a 6-foot-3-inch tall friend when the toy you want is hiding out on the top shelf.
Terrence Brooks visitsa local Boys and Girls Club
As a kid, Terrence Brooks spent his days after school at his local Boys and Girls Club, and on Dec. 16, he spent an afternoon paying it back to a place that helped him grow. Brooks visited a Providence Boys and Girls Club with his wife and children, playing games, handing out gifts and giving advice to the kids he met.
"I know those kids look up to us a lot, so any time we can really just get out there and show them, 'Hey, we're normal people too. We just play football.' I just wanted to get out there to show my face and be around them and talk to any of that have problems," Brooks said. "I know for some of them, their parents aren't home or they only have their mom or their dad. I wanted to give them a different perspective."
For Brooks, the Boys and Girls Club was a way for him to stay out of trouble outside of football. It was social learning and a good place to stay busy while making friends. Now, as an adult with a platform, Brooks felt it was important to be the role model he wished he had as a kid.
"When I was there age, I would have done anything for an NFL player or anybody who is a nice citizen role model to us to come back and give us some guidance," he said.
J.C. Jackson, Justin Bethel and Shaq Mason give gifts
Around Thanksgiving, Justin Bethel jumped right into the New England community, donating 750 turkeys to families through the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston. It should come as no surprise then that he again found himself doing some good.
On Dec. 6, he brought local Make-A-Wish families to Macy's in Boston for a shopping excursion. The families were given gift cards, and Bethel helped them out as they perused the store.
"It was cool," he said. "They enjoyed it. There was one kid in particular I was walking around with. It was funny because his mom was like, 'You know he plays on the team you watch.' He was like, 'Oh, really?!' It's always cool to be with the kids and go out there and be able to just talk with them, be around them and spend time with them."
Giving back wasn't restricted to just New England either. Shaq Maosn, from afar, made the holidays even brighter for families in his hometown.
Maury County Public Schools tweeted that Mason surprised one of their elementary schools with 351 presents for the students and their families. The giving didn't stop there, though. On game day, he organized a turkey and ham giveaway for families who might need a holiday dinner.
Mason's mother, Alicia McGuire, told the Columbia Daily Herald that giving back to the community where he grew up is a priority.
"Shaq is a very humble person. It's just in his heart to help," she told the paper. "He does not want to see anyone go hungry for Christmas."
While Mason turned to his hometown to help, another Patriot gave back to a local family. J.C. Jackson took a single mother and her three sons shopping on Dec. 16. He treated her and her family to a holiday's worth of gifts and supplies.
"It was pretty cool. Growing up, that never happened to me, and I felt like they'll never forget that moment," he said. "I feel like I made their Christmas, and that's what it's all about. It's all about giving."
You can check out more photos in the gallery below.
The New England Patriots Foundation, in partnership with Bass Pro Shops, the New England Patriots Alumni Club (NEPAC) and Patriots co-captain Devin McCourty, hosted "Gifts from the Gridiron," a holiday shopping spree at Bass Pro Shops at Patriot Place for 50 children from local homeless shelter programs on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019. Children ages nine to 18 were matched with a personal shopper, including current and former Patriots players, their wives or significant others and Patriots cheerleaders. Each child received a $400 gift card, compliments of the Patriots Foundation, Devin McCourty, NEPAC and Bass Pro Shops.