While most people spend Labor Day at the beach or doing some other vacation-oriented activity, former Dolphins star defensive end Jason Taylor and his foundation headed up to an Old Navy store in Davie, Fla. to give over 60 students a whole new wardrobe through the annual 'Cool Gear for the School Year' event.
With a $300 dollar budget for each kid in hand, celebrity shoppers ranging from Olympic gold medalists to current and former Miami Dolphins players paired up with one or more of the 60 students and helped them get ready for the brand new school year.
"So far me and Shawn, we've been trying to look for all his favorite colors." said Dolphins safety Michael Thomas. "He likes blue, he likes red, so any shirts, any shorts that have his favorite color we got that, but you can never have too many socks or too many pairs of drawers so we made sure to get those too."
Thomas, alongside fellow teammates Jordan Cameron, Thomas Duarte, Matt Darr, John Denney, Dion Jordan, Koa Misi, Cameron Wake and Mike Pouncey, went around the store helping the young kids find everything they would need to kick off a new year, whether it was clothes, backpacks or any other necessities.
Of course, when shopping with Miami Dolphins players, there's always a little incentive to sport some Dolphins gear as well.
"See, I didn't want to push him you know? To each his own," said Cameron Wake of his shopper. "But he actually grabbed some Dolphin gear, he got a couple t-shirts, a hat, so he was ready for Sundays and to make sure he cheers on the home team."
The home team in question has long been affiliated with the Jason Taylor Foundation, and has been a huge part of the organization's work in the community, supporting one of their own in Jason Taylor, who not only is the franchise's reigning sack leader, but he won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2007 for not only his presence on the football field, but for the work he did off the field, which he continues to this day.
"I think things like this are priceless." Taylor said. "Having been on the other side of the tracks so to speak growing up, understanding the importance of feeling good about yourself and having some new gear for the school year and all that, it's big. We enjoy it, I think Old Navy's enjoyed it for the past twelve years, and they've been a fantastic partner. I go shopping maybe twice a year, and this is one of them."
Taylor's former teammates came out in force, along with some other alumni who have been connected to the franchise for many years more. Former Dolphins wide receiver Wes Welker made an appearance, as did fullback Lousaka Polite - along with his daughter - and together they made sure their young shopper had everything that would be needed for a new school year. Meanwhile, Channing Crowder and Joe Rose kept the laughs coming all night long with their inexhaustible senses of humor.
A good time was had by all, but what must never be forgotten is the impact that an event like this has on kids who need a helping hand. The Jason Taylor Foundation purchased over $18,000 dollars worth of clothing and school supplies in a little over an hour, and those kids will be going to school this semester with their heads held high.
What could be better than that?
Taylor may not be terrorizing quarterbacks on the football field anymore, but his impact is still being felt within South Florida, even if it isn't quite as visible in the public eye as it used to be. There's still plenty more to do this year, especially with football season coming up, and you can be sure that the foundation is nowhere near through changing the lives of kids all over South Florida.
"Showing that you care, showing some love, put your arm around somebody, helping them out, it's very fulfilling for me." Taylor said. "The best is always seeing the kids smile."
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
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