The Cardinals huddled together Monday night, but they were not awaiting a play-call. They were waiting for more plates of food to serve.
Several players, front office personnel and team wives took part in the annual ‘Early Bird Thanksgiving Dinner’ as part of an ongoing ‘Help Feed the Hungry’ initiative at the Phoenix Rescue Mission.
Team president Michael Bidwill, his sister Nicole and Cardinals employees joined players
They also handed out hats, signed autographs, took photos and chatted when they weren’t busy doling out the food and drinks.
“I feel almost a little bit selfish because I feel like I get more out of it than I actually give,” Michael Bidwill said. “It’s always a really rewarding experience to come out and be hands-on involved in giving back at an event like this.”
According to the most recent data, there are 13,248 men, women and children who are homeless in Maricopa County. Despite their circumstances, the mood was a jovial one.
“It’s been a blast,” Watford said. “I’m so excited to be here. For this great place to let us do this for all these great people in here, I’m just having so much fun. I’m sure all the other players are, too. Just to give back. What’s a few hours? It’s the least we can do for all these people here to give them a good meal. They’re loving it too and enjoying it.”
Before the food was handed out, Acho talked to the crowd about his beliefs and the importance of staying optimistic despite the tough circumstances.
Feely was then presented a ‘Game Changer’ award for his years of service to the mission.
“Transformation is not handing somebody a plate, transformation is commitment,” said Jay Cory, the president and CEO of the Phoenix Rescue Mission. “ ‘I’m going to show up.’ Jay consistently does that. He’s building relationships with some of our people. They know that in season, out of season, he’s going to be here. That continual commitment to be here is a tremendous blessing to us.”
Feely, who has been visiting the facility since signing with the Cardinals in 2010, said he was honored to receive the award but does not volunteer his time for the recognition.
“It’s not why we come,” said Feely, who was joined by his wife, Rebecca. “It was kind of them to do that, but it’s just an honor for me to be able to come here and serve. It’s special what they’re doing here.”
The interaction was constant. Golden talked about his time on the Bears with a pair of men who grew up in Chicago. Watford was asked what position he plays, and after answering “Guard,” one guest responded, “It shows!”
A middle-aged man told Bidwill he had about three years of football left if the Cardinals ever needed help. Nicole Bidwill was a favorite of the children because she would spray whipped cream into their cupped hand.
Michael Bidwill said the joy he saw in the players’ faces is part of the reason why they are on the roster.
“This is the kind of high-quality players we want to draft and have a part of the team,” he said. “Guys that are getting it done on the field but care about the community and care about giving back. Each of us knows we’re in a special position with the Cardinals and the NFL, and I think it’s important that we’re giving back.”