'It's all about the power of giving' as Notre Dame football gives back
MISHAWAKA — Maybe the only smile bigger than Notre Dame middle linebacker Nyles Morgan’s Sunday at the Meijer store on Grape Road was that of the little girl towing him around on the back of a shopping cart.
“Nice job, Nyles,” deadpanned Irish head football coach Brian Kelly. “Don’t get her hurt.”
Both the little girl and her passenger professed it was her idea to test her strength during the fifth-annual Shop With a Player event, sponsored by the Kelly Cares Foundation. She also had a cart full of presents as the upshot of the $125 gift card she was given ($100 from KCF, $25 from Meijer).
In total, 100 underprivileged kids, ranging in ages from 8 to 13 from the New Prairie School district, got to spend time with the ND football team, first at a lunch held at Papa Vino’s restaurant, then on a $125 shopping spree at Meijer.
For the first time in the event’s history, the Kelly Cares Foundation was brave enough to add a wrapping station.
“Some of them are going to end up with bags with duct tape on them,” Kelly predicted.
Local law enforcement helped pick the group of kids, roughly 40 percent of whom live at or below the poverty level in LaPorte and St. Joseph counties. Each kid was assigned an ND football player to help them shop.
“It’s all about the power of giving,” said Paqui Kelly, the coach’s wife and the inspiration for and co-founder of KCF.
“The thing that amazes me every year, the more I do this,” Brian Kelly said, “is that our kids are kids. I mean, as a Notre Dame football player, they’re scrutinized, they’re evaluated, they’re graded. They’re judged like professional athletes.
“Then you see them do this, and they’re kids. And they get a chance to be kids.”