Detroit Lions’ Kyle Van Noy and Stephen Tulloch, as well as other teammates are hoping to make a difference this Christmas for foster families and to benefit the nonprofit Rainbow Connection to collect wish lists from families in need that have been affected by cancer. Additionally, safety James Ihedigbo is inviting Detroit Public Schools students to write an essay for a chance to take their class on a paid Christmas shopping trip with the pro football player.
Van Noy and wife Marissa are donating 53 Christmas trees with ornaments and decorations to foster families in Metro Detroit on Monday at Eastern Market, Shed 5.
The families have been selected through local social-workers with the support of Homes for Black Children Organization, which services all foster children and families in Detroit. Families were given vouchers for a tree and can turn in that voucher for their new Christmas tree, stand and decorations at 6 p.m. at Eastern Market. Children will be receiving gift bags from the Van Noys, along with hot chocolate and a special visit from Santa Claus.
“Christmas just isn’t the same without a tree, and we are really excited to provide these trees that the kids can take home and decorate with their family,” says Kyle Van Noy. “This cause is so close to our hearts. I was adopted as an infant and my wife’s father and younger brother were both adopted as well. So, being able to help out and give back to local kids in the foster program, especially at Christmas time, is a big priority for us.”
On Dec. 11, Tulloch and teammates will join The Rainbow Connection to bring the southeast Michigan business community together for a special evening, the 7th Annual Athletes Adopting Families for the Holidays event at Bistro 82 in Royal Oak.
“We have been hosting this event for years now and each year its gets better and bigger than the last,” Tulloch says. “We have a great group of volunteers that head out to the stores almost daily and are buying the wish list items for these kids and families in need.”
Operation 55 was launched in 2011 when Tulloch signed with the Detroit Lions. The purpose of the program is to help as many people as possible and give children throughout metro Detroit opportunities to come to Detroit Lions home games to experience a game day with Tulloch. He has taken over 3,000 kids from various organizations throughout Detroit, including The Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, Big Family and more, to home Detroit Lions games. Tulloch also partnered with the Covenant House of Michigan, providing 55 kids with free dental services, and has continually adopted families in Detroit for the holidays providing them with food, clothing and toys every year.
Over the past two years, Tulloch also took on the task of adopting 55 schools in Detroit, also fulfilling their wish lists of needs including books, school supplies, computers, tablets, recess equipment and more. The 55-school project began in October and will continue to help schools until Tulloch reaches his commitment of helping all 55 schools across the area.
For more information, to volunteer or for tickets , visit Tullcoh55.com.
Ihedigbo’s essay contest is themed; “What would you give your family for Christmas, if you could give them absolutely anything?”
Ihedigbo, along with some teammates, will take the winning class of students from Bow Elementary-Middle School Christmas shopping at Walmart, located at 33201 Van Dyke, in Sterling Heights, on Dec. 15. Ihedigbo is giving each of the student essay winners a $100 gift card to buy Christmas presents at the outing.
“I wanted to do something that would promote the idea that it is better to give than receive, and to reward those that would give selflessly if they had the opportunity,” Ihedigbo, says. “This contest is a great way for kids to express themselves through writing, promote the importance of education, and help make Christmas a little merrier for the kids and their families at the same time.
The contest is currently underway and the winning class will be announced on Dec. 8.
The Christmas Shopping Trip is a special holiday extension of Ihedigbo’s Hope Africa U.S.A. charitable foundation, which raises money to provide post-high school educational scholarships for African students in Detroit and throughout the United States.
The Hope Africa USA Charity was founded in 2007 when Ihedigbo was drafted to the NFL. James wanted to use his new platform to further the dream of his father, which was a dream and goal of a higher education for not only his family, but others.