The Chargers hosted their annual shoe giveaway Tuesday, donating 300 pairs of shoes to elementary students from Santa Ana Unified School District with the shoe store, WSS. The tradition, in which Chargers players and Charger Girls are paired with local youth from underserved communities, has lasted nearly three decades.
Participating in the event for the third-straight year, Chargers tight end Hunter Henry spoke about the importance of giving back to the community in which he and his wife live year-round.
"I think it's important to be out here in this community," Henry said. "Sometimes the (children's) shoes are pretty run down, so it's cool (for them) to (get) a fresh pair of sneakers. They're always smiling and happy walking out."
Second-year cornerback Brandon Facyson, who played checkers and Jenga with the kids Tuesday, said volunteering at the event "means everything" to him.
"We got the community's back," Facyson said. "We're here, and it means everything. As an organization, we want to be here in support of our community, and we love seeing everybody smile. We're all a family, so why not make it feel like everybody's a family?"
Pro Bowl safety Derwin James said that he was happy to see a lot of his teammates participating in the event.
"We just wanted to spread the love with the holidays coming up, and this is a special way to give back to the kids," James said.
James added that meeting NFL players when he was a kid "would have been amazing."
"It's a memory the kid is gonna have forever," James said, "so it's special."
Michelle Dominguez, a representative for the school district, which educates about 56,000 students, said that many of these students were meeting a professional athlete for the first time.
"The (Chargers) serve as role models, and (the students) look up to them, so they're very excited," Dominguez said.
Tuesday's event, which took place at WSS in Santa Ana, speaks to the character of the Bolts organization, according to Daniela Beas, WSS' senior marketing manager.
"It's something that's important to them," Beas said. "They're just trying to be a part of this community as much as they can."
Heather Birdsall, director of community partnerships for the Chargers, agreed that community engagement is paramount for the team.
"It's really important to get out there to meet some of our youngest fans to show that we really care about the community that's embraced us up here," Birdsall said.
The Chargers have been partnering with the Santa Ana Unified School District since last year, and Dominguez said this engagement has made an impact.
"We're so grateful that the Chargers have been able to provide all these opportunities for our students," Dominguez said. "They've gone above and beyond to engage with our community and our schools."
While the Chargers have a notable name and brand behind them everywhere they go, Henry said that neither is a prerequisite for volunteering.
"A lot of people need help," Henry said, "and I think everybody could do something." "Anything (helps), especially this time of year, because people are spending a lot of time with family and getting gifts, but some people don't get those things. It's cool to be able to give back to the people who aren't as fortunate as some of us."
For nearly three decades, the Chargers have hosted an annual shoe giveaway for children from underserved communities. Each year, Chargers players and Charger Girls welcome local youth and join them for a fun-filled day of shopping. At the event, each child is paired with a player or Charger Girl who then lead them down the aisles in search of the perfect pair of shoes. This year, the team gave away 300 pairs of shoes to elementary students from Santa Ana Unified School District at WSS.