It’s the holiday season that puts us in the gift-giving spirit, no matter what holiday you’re celebrating, and those who have plenty, take the time to give to those who don’t. Former Paducah football player Tilghman turned Tennessee Titans Safety, George Wilson and the George Wilson Safety Foundation gave kids in the Paducah community a chance to celebrate the holidays with a shopping spree at Academy Sports + Outdoors.
The foundation and the sports and outdoor outfitter have partnered since the store was built in 2017 and Wilson says the relationship has grown a lot over the years.
“Academy, before they even opened their doors, they reached out to the Safety Foundation and wanted to partner with us to bring the kids into the store and that was just the start of a great relationship and partnership” , Wilson said. “They did it year after year without hesitation, and it actually grew.”
Fifty children were invited to the store on Thursday afternoon and with the help of volunteers from the foundation and the store itself, these children were able to roam the islands and pick out the things they wanted and/or needed . Each child received a $100 gift card to the store, courtesy of Academy Sports + Outdoors.
“They started sponsoring the whole thing, we used to do it half and half together, but now they’re doing it all and that says a lot about their company’s core values and how they really feel about the community. Paducah,” Wilson said. .
Children were encouraged to get things they might need, such as clothes or shoes, as well as items that would help them be active. Many children have tried on sports shoes and jackets and found their favorite ball (basketball, football, soccer ball, etc.) of their choice.
In a year of added hardship among residents of Western Kentucky with the devastating tornadoes that hit Dec. 10, Academy Sports + Outdoors also donated an additional $5,000 to the George Wilson Safety Foundation to purchase tornado relief items such as: blankets, winter clothing, flashlights, batteries and more.
“Even if you’re not in the affected areas, you know someone who is,” Wilson said. “And if you have a soul, you can empathize and put yourself in the shoes of these families. At some point in life, we will all need help, and that is why it is so beautiful to see all the people, all the communities around this region and people not even from this region, coming to help the affected communities and families. ”
Wilson and the foundation will be in Mayfield this weekend to help distribute items they were able to purchase with donations from the Academy as well as others who have contributed. He hopes to partner with other organizations to have the most positive impact possible, as other organizations and charities also perform great acts of service and fundraising.
“The funniest part for me is when I get on the bus and tell them (the kids) they get $100, no strings attached,” Wilson said with a big smile. “We don’t tell kids they can’t have something, within reason. We try to promote physical activity and want kids to get what they need to keep them active and outdoors.
Ultimately, Wilson says it’s most exciting to see how excited kids get after they actually buy what they have in their hands. Many of the kids made sure to stop leaving the store to show him what they could buy.