ARLINGTON -- Standing before a sea of students, Jack Groh, director of the NFL Environmental Program, raised his right hand and asked the audience to loudly repeat after him.
"I promise," Groh said.
"I promise," the students repeated.
"To recycle anything and everything whenever I can," Groh continued. "Things like glass, plastics, aluminum, paper, cardboard and quarterbacks."
The students inside the Salvation Army Community Center in Arlington erupted in laughter. Groh's speech, followed by an inspirational message from Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick, topped off an exciting Thursday morning for hundreds of North Texas students who gave back in a big way.
The students, from public and private schools, have spent the past several weeks gathering sports equipment, books, board games and school supplies to donate to less fortunate schools in the area. On Thursday, students dropped off more than 20,000 items at the community center, where they will be sorted and distributed.
The event, called Super Kids-Super Sharing, is part of the NFL Environmental Program and has taken place in Super Bowl host cities for more than a decade. But organizers said this year's event was the biggest and best ever, setting records for participating schools and donated items.
"We do things big here in Texas; we do things right here in Texas," Bill Lively, president of the Super Bowl Host Committee, told the students. "We try to help other people -- and you guys have made a great big difference."
In exchange for their generosity, the students were greeted by Rowdy, the Cowboys mascot, received autographs from two Cowboys cheerleaders and got to meet Scandrick, who posed for countless photos. Afterward, the students headed to Cowboys Stadium for a grand tour.
Friends Suzanne Schmitz, 14; Madyson Cassidy, 13, and Joan Dill, 13 -- all eighth-graders from St. Mary's Catholic School in Gainesville -- said everyone in their school was asked to donate one item. But they were among the lucky few asked to help deliver the items and attend the high-energy event.
"I liked the speakers; they were pretty funny," Suzanne said. "They made us feel good that we were helping everyone and that we were doing something good for the community."
Pulling off the event took coordination among the NFL, Cowboys, the Host Committee, the Salvation Army, and a host of school districts and volunteers.
Bianca Gamez, 33, of Arlington took the day off from her job at Microsoft to help out -- directing students, sorting items, unloading buses, a little bit of everything.
"I've been volunteering in sports for about 10 years here in the Metroplex," said Gamez, who is among more than 10,000 Super Bowl XLV volunteers. "When this came along, I had to help out. You just have to be a part of this. The Super Bowl is America's game. Volunteering is so important and I love giving back to the community."
Clayton Winkles and Daniel Sloan, both 12, were among four students that Hill Elementary School in Arlington chose to deliver items. They said it felt good to help out the less fortunate -- and to be part of a Super Bowl event.
"We just got here," Clayton said, looking around. "But this is pretty exciting."
Melody McDonald, 817-390-7386