After fitness activities at the Emerson Family YMCA with members of the St. Louis Rams, the group of Herzog Pilot Academy second and third graders boarded the bus and awaited their next instructions. Rams linebacker
With prior plans already in place for the kids, McIntosh was happy to oblige. He directed the buses to a nearby Walmart, where he and his foundation, A GRAN Foundation, treated the kids to a holiday shopping spree by providing each with a $100 gift card. With their funds, the students were able to purchase winter items, such as a new coat and gloves; school supplies and a toy of their choice with the remaining balance.
“It was like the old ‘Shop ‘til You Drop Show,’” McIntosh said. “It was crazy. But the kids definitely had a great time, their parents were here to support and we also had a lot of chaperones out here as well.”
It was McIntosh’s idea to surprise the students at school. He approached the Rams’ Community Outreach Team, who then worked with The Little Bit Foundation to find a school that best matched McIntosh’s criteria.
The Little Bit Foundation is an organization that partners with 14 schools in the St. Louis area to provide clothing items, school supplies or other necessities to needy students. Each week, three to four Little Bit volunteers visit a school to identify items needed by the students. The following week, the volunteers return to provide those items to the kids and work with them in a one-on-one setting to make sure the items fit, that they are appropriate and that they are going to help that child. Today, the organization works with over 3,400 students, many of who are at or near the poverty level. When it came to accomplishing McIntosh’s plan, Herzog emerged as the best fit.
“Herzog is a very special school and there’s a large need in the school,” Hanley said. “We knew that Rocky wanted to help the students with coats, shoes and other school supplies. Targeting Herzog as the neediest school made it a great partnership. We knew it would have the biggest positive impact.”
The impact of the program went deeper than just sales receipts.
“I was excited that our kids had the opportunity to meet a great athlete, and then to receive the wonderful treats he provided,” Herzog Principal Sandra Bell said. “They learned a lot about looking at healthy fitness and living healthy.”
Providing students with the skills to embrace learning, lead healthy lives and mentor others in the community is the overarching goal of A GRAN Foundation. McIntosh and his family started the foundation in Virginia in 2011, and have since expanded its efforts to include the St. Louis area.
“My family and I decided we wanted to try and teach kids about healthy eating, healthy lifestyles and make them feel better about themselves,” McIntosh said. “Hopefully it turns out that they improve in the classroom as well.”
Prior to the event, the Herzog second and third graders wrote letters to McIntosh regarding their efforts to improve their health and fitness. According to Bell, it was a way to connect the students to McIntosh before his visit. On Tuesday, the Rams linebacker surprised the kids at school and referenced their letters when giving a speech on the importance of being healthy. He backed up his claims at the Emerson YMCA with the help of eight of his Rams teammates, including safety Matt Daniels, guard
As evidenced by McIntosh’s efforts, the partnership between the Rams and Little Bit has already produced success. That is a theme the two organizations hope to continue moving forward.
“This is such a positive impact on the kids and Herzog, but also The Little Bit Foundation,” Hanley said. “I’ve already received calls from other principals asking if The Little Bit Foundation could bring a Rams player to their school, so it’s a huge help all the way around.”
Bell and her Herzog students also appreciate the efforts in their own way.
“This is an experience my kids will never forget – I’ll never forget it,” she said. “But just knowing that they met a National Football League Player, and to have him so involved with the kids, they’re going to have a great memory of this.”
To learn more about The Little Bit Foundation or volunteer opportunities, visit www.thelittlebitfoundation.org. And for more information about A GRAN Foundation, visit their website at agranfoundation.org.