The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and Macy's partnered together again to provide 300 winter coats and hats to students from seven elementary schools in the surrounding Washington, D.C., metro area.
The cold air that chilled the East Coast throughout most of the weekend remained Monday morning outside the Dulles Town Center. In some ways, it was an unwelcoming return to the work week. In others, it was ideal weather for a winter coat giveaway.
Thanks again to the partnership between the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and Macy's, underserved youth in the Washington, D.C., metro area had their pick of 300 coats and hats, part of the "Share The Warmth" event that has taken place for the last four years at the department store.
Burgundy and gold curtains surrounded the racks of new jackets, which quickly found new homes once Redskins players -- dressed in their jerseys and donning silly props used for a photo area -- helped them find their size and favorite colors.
Among those chauffeuring, shopping and zippering, in two different shifts through the morning and afternoon, were quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Robert Griffin III, running backs Alfred Morris and Trey Williams, fullback Darrel Young, wide receiver Ryan Grant, tight end Derek Carrier, offensive lineman Arie Kouandjio, defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois, linebackers Houston Bates and Keenan Robinson, safety Kyshoen Jarrett and specialists Dustin Hopkins and Tress Way.
"We want to always improve to make the year right, so we figured if we do it earlier in the year, we can get the coats on the kids backs before the winter hits really hard," said Kasonya Blevins, Macy's Store Manager. "Why not give back to our community and the children that are here in the surrounding areas?"
Last year, the event was hosted in early December to prepare for the holidays. But as the temperature made clear outside the store doors, harsh weather doesn't wait for the season to get festive.
"I wear flip flops and I've got to get to shopping," Jean Francois, a Miami native, said. "I'm not a weather guy, but this is a perfect time for us to give these coats to these kids… We've got to make sure these kids get bundled up, make sure they find the right jacket."
Kids wore colored wristbands that coordinated with a specific coat rack to aid players in choosing the right size. Many students, if they were unfazed by standing beside professional football players, rushed to the corner to pose for a photo with their new coat, along with some sunglasses, necklaces and masks, once they finished their search.
On their way out of the room, they received some Redskins winter hats and a goodie bag. Then it was time for another school, and another round of stampeding kids, many of whom were selecting a brand new coat for the first time.
"I remember growing up in Michigan and wanting a jacket of a sports team," Cousins said. "It's a lot of fun to interact with the kids and fun to hang out with my teammates, too."
"I was the youngest of four boys, so honestly I got hand-me-downs," Jarrett said. "I didn't get much direction, so when I was actually able to buy my first coat, probably in high school, it was a cool experience."
Way, who seemed the most excited in scouting for coats and finding them an owner, interviewed kids with a microphone prop once they were bundled up. To this day, he still remembers buying his first coat.
"I'm going to sound like a little bit of a brat, but I cried because my mom bought me [my first coat] and I hated it," said Way. "So we went to the sporting goods store and I picked out a blue Umbro jacket, a soccer jacket. I had that one forever. I probably wore that all the way up to high school. It was way too short."
In between groups, when the sounds of polyester swishing against itself died down, players took a group photo with their wives, many of which were there to lend a hand for girls trying to find that special jacket.
"I love Macy's mall, I've been here a lot," said Itzel, from Saratoga Elementary school, who settled on a nice cheetah print tan coat. "[The Redskins are] my favorite football team. I was nervous when we were coming over here. I've never been to the football game but I've watched them play on TV."
"This was my dream," said one student, mesmerized by the athletes he had just met.
And thus, Monday's event tailored something more personal for both players and those preparing to keep warm in the months ahead.
"Little events like this where you get to pull one kid aside, take him to the jacket, talk to them, have some fun with them," said Way, "that's when it's a good time."