Though playing football professionally is their life’s work, done with much pleasure and riches, the Dallas Cowboys used an off-day following a gigantic victory over Pittsburgh to fulfill a true labor of love.
Faces brightened as Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott and eight other Cowboys rookies roamed the cafeteria of the Salvation Army in Fort Worth serving an early Thanksgiving dinner to the residents, whose earthly tents have been destroyed.
Morale appeared to be at a peak for the many seeking healing from the personal demons and poverty that have made life hell.
For the Cowboys, the annual event in Fort Worth and Dallas is an opportunity to, yes, boost the esteem of the organization, but also use the platform of the one of the world’s most popular sports organization to promote the value of a cause much greater than eight consecutive victories or Super Bowl prospects or even victories.
“The time you have, it’s important giving it to others,” said Prescott, who joked that he got his hands dirty with the mashed potatoes. “Kind of what I’m about is relationships and making bonds with other people. It starts with giving your time, and I hope everyone does that.”
Players rotated their duties. Five dished out plates while five others delivered meals to the tables. Once half had been served meals, the players switched roles.
They chatted up and took pictures with the diners, and signed autographs. Elliott held a baby as securely as a football on third down.
The Salvation Army have had a long-standing relationship with the Cowboys and Jones family. Each year, the Cowboys dedicate the halftime of the annual Thanksgiving Day game to kick off the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Christmas campaign. The Cowboys have a 50/50 raffle for fans attending home games. Fans buy raffle tickets with the chance to win half the pot. The Salvation Army receives the other half.
“What’s important to us is the Jones family and the Cowboys have been an integral part … they’ve embraced the Salvation Army,” said Beckie Wach, executive director of the Salvation Army’s Mabee Social Service Center in Fort Worth, and added that the family’s dedication includes taking an interest in the organization’s outcomes.
The Thanksgiving lunch is one of the more intimate settings for players and residents, who are able to come in and sit down as if making a rare if ever visit to a restaurant.
The players are always very personable and give them hope, and talk to them one-on-one.
“To have a Cowboys player sit down and say ‘how’s it going?’ those are really important times,” Wach said.
The event also helps the Salvation Army promote its needs, such as donations of scarves, mittens, coats, and socks as the cold season approaches, Wach said. “This is a good way to get that ball rolling.”
“I’ve been a Cowboys fan for a long time. Yesterday was a fantastic game,” said Vincent Fagan, 59, a resident. “I’ve been here for a little bit, and this one was better than last year. The attitude seems to be really uplifting.”
As a Cowboys fan, the team being 8-1 can’t hurt in a better time this time around.
“It was great,” Prescott said. “These people were awesome. To come in and take all the pictures and see the smiles on their faces after what they’re going through, it’s great.”