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Feeding Hungry Includes Helping Of Time

Posted Nov 20, 2012

Cardinals take part in annual meal at Phoenix Rescue Mission

Linebacker Sam Acho hands out meals Monday night at Phoenix Rescue Mission. For a photo gallery, click here.

The questions seemed to come from every table at the Phoenix Rescue Mission.

It usually started with this: “That 61-yarder was great.” Then it was usually followed by this: “But how’d you miss the next kick?”

Jay Feely couldn’t help but laugh every time he heard about it, but in between serving plates of Thanksgiving dinner, the Cardinals kicker smiled and talked football with the more than 400 men, women and children who attended the “Early Bird Thanksgiving Dinner” on Monday evening.

“They asked me why I missed a couple of kicks,” Feely said with a chuckle. “They talked about their circumstances, how they ended up here, how grateful they were for the mission here. It’s neat to hear people stories. Sometimes they just want someone to be able to share those stories with.”

Feely was joined by teammates Sam Acho and Mike Leach, as well as Cardinals president Michael Bidwill, Nicole Bidwill and players’ wives. They served a Thanksgiving meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, cranberry sauce, fruit, salad and rolls for about two hours, as a steady stream of people took a couple hours off from life to enjoy a hot meal and conversation with the Cardinals.

Before sitting down for dinner, Leach and his wife handed out winter hats as the men, women and children walked into the Mission.

“I think it lifted their spirits,” Michael Bidwill said. “There were a lot of people that said they appreciated us being here and taking time to come down and be here. And it was important to them that we just showed up. For many, they were happy to get a hat or an autograph or things like that.”

Joining the players were Big Red and a couple of Cardinals Cheerleaders.

Throughout the evening, the men, women and children laughed and talked with the players, always a smile on their faces. They were looking forward to the Cardinals’ visit and will be talking it for weeks, Phoenix Rescue Mission President Emeritus Jerry Sandvig said.

“It means a lot because a lot of these fellows and women and children that are here, their lives get pretty hum-drum, pretty hopeless in many ways,” Sandvig said. “This is just a bright time for them to get to see these folks that they love to watch so much. It’s just a great uplifting thing. A lot of these people have no place to go for the holidays. They find it a very wonderful place for them. It’s peaceful. It just raises the level of joy.”

When Acho arrived, the second-year linebacker didn’t head straight for the dining room.

He spent about 30 minutes talking to a group of men and women about a topic he knows well: the Bible. He shared his family’s story about giving back to the less fortunate in Nigeria. He shared passages from the Bible throughout his talk, as the assembled folks nodded in unison.

The message was one of hope. Acho preached that there are always people in worse conditions.

“You look at some of the people here and see people who are homeless or jobless, but we go to Nigeria and see people that are way worse,” Acho said. “So I remind them that it could be worse but also reminded them that there’s hope.”

When everyone left for the evening, the holiday spirit was starting to kick into high gear. The smell of turkey and all its fixings was still lingering in the air, and the players were glad they were able to brighten someone’s day.

“It means a lot,” Leach said. “My wife and I enjoy coming out here and meeting new people. They’re going through some hard times and if they can have good meal and maybe not think about the stuff they’re going through for a little while it’s worth our time.

“It’s something we feel very blessed to be in the NFL and get to do things we do and be rewarded them. If this is a little something we can do to help out, then we’ll do it every year.”


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