His evening of shopping at Target in Tempe was complete, and his small group of kids from the UMOM Day Center was grinning from ear to ear as they stood near their jumbo-sized shopping bags, packed to the gills, looking similar to the oversized sacks Santa Claus hauls around.
When a group of adults saw the second-year defensive lineman rocking back and forth on the bike, he smiled and turned away. Even the Cardinals were having fun with the new toys Monday night.
Carter was one of nine Cards who joined defensive end Calais Campbell for his eighth annual Christmas with Calais charity event. Campbell invited 50 children from UMOM, all of whom excelled in school, to Target for a $200 shopping spree 15 days ahead of Christmas.
“You see the smiles on their face and it’s super exciting,” Campbell said. “I think it’s really a chance (for them) to see somebody you can look up to, kind of a role model and kind of see we’re just normal people just like they are. It’s just kind of something to get rewarded for good behavior and do things the right way.”
After the children were treated to a turkey and ham dinner catered by Boston Market, they were led around the store in groups by the players, who included linebacker
They navigated the entire store, from bikes and Barbies to clothes and candy.
Most of the children shared their newfound wealth with their families, buying gifts for their siblings and parents.
“They’re grateful to be able to purchase something for their parents,” Carter said. “The first thing that comes out of their mouths is, ‘Let me buy something for my mom, let me buy something for my sister.’ It’s like wow. These kids, they get an opportunity to spoil themselves but the first thing they think about is the chance to get something for their mom or their dad or their brothers or sisters or some other kid that they know.”
As the shopping carts filled with video games, skateboards, footballs and other toys, the players learned a thing or two about kids.
Groves was assigned a group of girls and never spent a minute in a toy aisle. But whether it was toys or sunglasses, Groves still got as much out of his group as they did.
“A joy that no money can fill, a joy that no player on the football field can fill, a joy that these kids that don’t have much of anything can actually come out and feel like they’re on top of the world,” Groves said. “Even if it’s for a brief moment, they can feel that ‘Hey, I know what it’s like to live a superstar lifestyle.’”