RB Taiwan Jones, LS Jon Condo and Raiderette Natalie deliver a basket to a patient and her mother at Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Recently, RB Taiwan Jones, LS Jon Condo, and NFL alumni, Gary Weaver, Marv Hubbard, Dave Casper, Larry Allen, and Tony Stewart, and Raiderettes Kathleen, Itza and Natalie, visited Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland to deliver baskets as part of Basket of Hope.
Basket of Hope, an organization supported by former NFL coach Tony Dungy, was started "by one mom of one patient who just started talking to her friends and said, 'kids in the hospital need things to do, parents need to be supported,'" explained Mary Kelly, Manager of Child Life Services. "So she started asking her friends and it's grown into a huge foundation now that has hundreds of volunteers. They bought all the items for the baskets, put the baskets together in a big warehouse in Indianapolis and then shipped them out to all the children's hospitals in cities where they have NFL teams."
The Raiders helped pass out the baskets and spent time with the patients throughout the local hospital. Kelly saw the impact the visit had on the children and their parents. "We always love when the Raiders come and visit us and for them to be our representatives from the NFL and come and visit our kids and hand out these baskets and really make a connection with the families is truly awesome," said Kelly. "Again, it just strengthens our connection here in Oakland with our team, the Raiders."
The baskets were filled with various activities, toys, and entertainment to help the kids get through their hospital stay. "We got to go up and visit a few different floors of current patients, people who might be here a day, some people who have been here a couple weeks, months," said Raiderette Kathleen. "Essentially what we were doing was delivering baskets to help provide entertainment and overall just a distraction from some of the day to day events that are going on at the hospital and bring a little bit of joy into their lives."
The current and former players were excited to be able to bring smiles to the kids' faces. "It was just a blessing and an honor to be able to represent [the Raiders] at Oakland Children's Hospital and just spread a little hope," said Stewart. "I was received with a lot of smiles so I was a little taken off guard in a happy way to see those smiles from the kids before and after we came in there."
Condo wanted the children and their families to know that they had the Raiders support and encouragement. "We were here in the Children's Hospital, delivering them a little package to let them know that there are people out there rooting for them and wanting them to get better and to bring them a little spark in their lives," said Condo. "I know that staying in the hospital can be a tough time, but any way we can get a smile on their faces, it's what we're out there to do."
Jones, who grew up in the Bay Area, was happy to give back to his community. "I'm actually from the Bay Area so whenever I can give back I'm always willing to do it," said Jones. "There are a lot of sick kids so it's good to come out and be able to make them smile and not think about what they're going through."
Weaver, a former Raiders linebacker, helped bring together the Raiders alumni for the visit. "Meeting these kids…they're stuck here and they read about the NFL guys and basketball and baseball and this was a chance for us to come out here and meet these kids and they can see us, talk to us," said Weaver. "It touched my heart to come out here. It's great."
As the players and Raiderettes passed out the baskets of goodies, they were welcomed with many reactions, but all ended with a smile. "Some were a little shy at first; then they warmed up to you," said Raiderette Kathleen. "Others, from the moment you walked in, they were peeking their head out the door waiting for us to come down the hallway. Overall, across the board, a whole range of emotion, but overall excitement and really just a special time to connect and you could tell they were really happy to see us and have us be here."
Stewart, who has four children of his own, brought two of his sons to Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland to demonstrate the impact of giving back to one's community. "One of the things that I believe with youth is that they need to be taught and serving is one of those things that they need to be taught," Stewart explained. "We're in this world together so we need to learn how to build relationships and how to help each other out and that's one of the reasons I brought my own sons today to Children's Hospital."
Condo and Jones wanted to give back to their Raiders community alongside the NFL alum and Raiderettes. "It's important because we're The Oakland Raiders," said Condo. "It's all about community here and we want to show the community that we're here for them because they're always there to support us. Our fan base here in Oakland is tremendous. It's awesome to just give something back to them and it's a great honor to put this jersey on and represent Oakland and to just give back to the community."