Cardinals safety Oliver Celestin helps children shop during Monday night's B-Train's Holiday Express charity event.
Oliver Celestin was talking to one of the girls he was chaperoning through Monday night's "B-Train's Holiday Express" – Bertrand Berry's effort to bring some joy to abused and neglected children – when the subject of school came up.
The girl did pretty well in English. She wanted to do better in math. So Celestin made the girl a deal.
The Cardinals safety told her if she worked hard to improve, he'd buy her a laptop computer – obviously a cost well beyond the $100 shopping spree each child received.
"Anything to encourage people, anything to help a person to progress and do better," the Cardinals' safety said. "Sometimes with kids you have to motivate them.
"I play within the lines all day every day. Sometimes you just want to be a normal person and give back."
Fifteen Cardinals joined Berry at the Northwest Phoenix Wal-Mart for the event sponsored by the Bertrand Berry Foundation. The children were handpicked by Childhelp, a national non-profit organization dedicated to help victims of child abuse and neglect in addition to at-risk kids.
"It speaks volumes about their commitment to the community, and to know these kids, who might not get a lot for Christmas, get a night of making their dreams come true," said Sarah Rodriguez, the Childhelp vice president of corporate and chapter relations. "To think these guys have a day off and chose to help Bertrand out, it restores your faith in humanity."
Besides Berry and Celestin, the other Cards that took part were Calvin Pace, Rodney Bailey, Troy Bienemann, Anquan Boldin, Steve Breaston, Ralph Brown, Aaron Francisco, Mike Gandy, Sean Morey, Neil Rackers, Bo Schobel, Lyle Sendlein, Marcel Shipp and Jerheme Urban.
Some 50 children were treated to dinner at McDonald's, outfitted in a Holiday Express T-shirt and then sent off to shop with the players. (For a photo gallery, click here).
Some children went after toys. Others came with lists that included clothes or other necessary items.
The players did the best they could to direct the kids – Pace looked a little out of place trying to help one little girl mull the purchase of a Hannah Montana doll set – but mostly, they just enjoyed the moment.
"The truth of it is, you see those little kids look up at you with those eyes, it makes you feel all soft," Bailey said. "They are so precious. You are overjoyed to see them so happy."
Berry has spearheaded the event for three years.
"It's necessary to give a kid an opportunity to enjoy Christmas," Berry said. "To me, it's a no-brainer."
The defensive end said that his teammates and himself ultimately benefitted from the evening.
"It never ceases to amaze me, the human spirit," Berry said. "It always goes better than what I thought. I am pleased. The kids got a lot out of it but I think the guys got even more out of it."
Contact Darren Urban at email@example.com. Posted 12/5/07