T-Rich Transforms into Santa at Toys R Us Event

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Rich in Spirit Holiday Shopping Spree with GenJets at Toys R Us

Some excited grade-schoolers had a ball with Tony Richardson last week as the Jets fullback hosted a Toys R Us shopping spree at a store in Livingston, N.J.

"It's something I had a chance to do in Kansas City," said the former long-time Chief. "To come out and spend time with the kids and really allow them to go Christmas shopping and pick up a few things for themselves as well as for their siblings, it's a great event.

Richardson purchased $5,000 worth of gift cards for 25 students to get some great gifts this holiday season. For those who aren't math wizards, that's $200 per kid, which probably seemed like an infinite allotment for the children.

"The biggest thing is the Pokemon cards — I know those are pretty popular," said Richardson. "Or the Transformer helmets."

Richardson recalled that Transformer action figures were probably his favorite childhood toy.

"I actually wanted to get one for myself," he said of the helmets, "but I figured I'd let little man have his. Little Juan was excited about his helmet. So I think the Transformer helmet was probably the coolest thing I saw today."

Richardson was also joined by fellow teammates Kris Jenkins, Calvin Pace, Vernon Gholston, Brett Ratliff and Kareem Brown. He gathered his teammates to put a smile on the children's faces and gave them the opportunity to get some gifts they may not have been able to receive otherwise.

When Jenkins wasn't helping kids pick gifts, he was seen riding a tiny scooter around the store, greeting and making conversation with various people.

"In the holiday season, sometimes it's the happiest time for some people," said Richardson, "but then again sometimes it's the saddest time for some people. To have an opportunity, with myself and my teammates, to guarantee these kids are going to have a merry Christmas, that's just what it's all about.

"We're very, very fortunate to do what we do for a living and any opportunity we get to give back, we try to do it. And tonight was just a classic example of the kids having a great time, the players having a great time, so tonight was a win-win situation for everybody."

Richardson also feels that reaching out to kids is part of his obligation as an athlete.

"I think it's a responsibility," he said. "I think unfortunately sometimes athletes say they really don't want to be role models, but you know young people look up to us. They see us on television or if they're fortunate enough to make it to a game. They know a lot about us, but they don't get a chance to touch us, feel us and see that we're actually normal every-day people, that we don't fly to work every day with helicopters and we don't have a red cape, that we're just normal just like them.

"And I think it gives them inspiration and hope to know that 'You know what? I was once a young person as well and I had the same goals and aspirations you did,' and you can tell them, 'If you work hard in school and listen to your parents and teachers, the sky is the limit.' "

Eugene Foley, director of the after-school programs for the Brooklyn Bureau said the children at the Toys R Us come from at-risk neighborhoods and are socio-economically challenged.

"The kids really have an opportunity to go shop and get something for themselves," Foley said. "They also get something for their family and friends and I think they learn a real good sense of giving and receiving, so it's really important to them"

The 25 students were selected to participate in the day's event as part of an incentive program based on attendance and school work.

Richardson is filled with the spirit of giving on a year-round basis and has helped to make sure that these kids will have a happy holiday this year.

"For me," said Richardson, "every chance I get to be able to shake a little kids hand, pat them on the back and tell them that they could do it, I try to take those opportunities very seriously."

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