One-hundred Rock Hill kids got the opportunity of a lifetime Saturday morning when they were set loose in Walmart -- each with a $200 gift card.
Rock Hill Schools graduates and NFL stars Jadeveon Clowney and Johnathan Joseph each contributed $10,000 through the Jadeveon Clowney Help In Time Foundation and The Johnathan Joseph Foundation to help kids pick out Christmas presents.
The children of all ages roamed the aisles, grabbing pink bikes with glittering handlebars and video games. More than 70 volunteers from the community turned out to help.
Josenna, Clowney's mother, said Clowney and Joseph weren’t able to be in Rock Hill because the Houston Texans play Sunday in Jacksonville, but she knew they were excited to give back to the community.
“It’s amazing and I’m so proud of him,” she said of Jadeveon. “I think he’s maturing a lot he just wants to give back to his community.”
This is the second year Clowney has given back to kids in his hometown – and he hasn’t stopped with Rock Hill. The Texans’ star put on a similar event in Houston early last week.
Kimberly Barber said the shopping trip is a blessing for her family. Her 12-year-old son Ja'Corian was one of the kids chosen by Rock Hill Schools.
Over the past few weeks, Serena Williams, coordinator for community services for Rock Hill Schools, said school guidance counselors, administrators and coaches have been nominating children for the event.
“It’s a blessing that somebody even cared enough, not just for my child but for everyone who was chosen just to give back to the community,” Barber said.
Her son plays football at Dutchman Creek Middle School, Barber said, and wants to play in the NFL someday.
She said he was amazed that Clowney and Joseph were doing this for him.
Ja'Corian said he bought video games, a basketball, a new jacket – and even a Christmas gift for his mom.
Gavin Bennett, a football player at South Pointe High School, said he heard about the event Friday and immediately wanted to help.
“I figured it would be a good opportunity to help people in my community,” he said. “I hopped right on it.”
Bennett said he volunteered to help a family with five children do their shopping. The family spoke only Spanish, and recently relocated from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, Rock Hill Schools spokesman Mychal Frost said.
Bennett has been taking Spanish for three years at South Pointe. He said the kids told him his Spanish wasn’t great, but they could understand him.
The family had little to nothing when they had to leave Puerto Rico, Frost said, and each child received a Walmart gift card.
“It was an incredible experience,” Bennett said. “Probably my favorite part was at the end. The mom was crying because she didn’t know if she was going to be able to get everyone presents. I was just glad to be a part of that to help them. She was just... everyone was so happy.”
And that’s the goal for Clowney and Joseph, Josenna said. As well as all the organizations that partnered with them: Rock Hill Schools, Rock Hill Schools Education Foundation, Walmart Newport, Chick-Fil-A at Cherry Road and motivational speaker Latoya Out Loud.
“We just want to make them a little happier and have something for Christmas,” Josenna said.
Hannah Smoot: 803-329-4068