“We believe very strongly in the power of play,” said Joanne Pasternack of the 49ers Foundation, which supports programs for underserved youth in the area. “You can learn so much from getting out there on the sports field, doing art activities, playing music—anything that is really a passion point for you. Our players love to go out in the community and be part of these activities.”
For Smith, the event was one of many ways he gives back to the local community since signing with the 49ers in 2015. “I grew up in a small town in Virginia and we didn’t have these programs. If it weren’t for other people offering a helping hand, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said. Smith founded the non-profit Torrey Smith Family Fund, which provides youth with the tools they need to identify, unleash, and reach their full potential. “Win, lose or draw, people are cheering for you on the field so it means a lot to spend your time giving back to the community that cares about you.” His volunteer work earned him a nomination for this year’s Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.
Elves, or Visa employee volunteers, were on hand to help the kids make the most of their $1500 budget from Visa and guide them through checkout. “Seeing the kids’ faces light up with happiness is pure joy,” said Ivy Tao, a Visa legal assistant and volunteer.
The girls and boys chosen to represent their programs demonstrated teamwork at its best as they prioritized purchases for their clubhouses. “It made me really happy to shop for my group and see some of the 49ers today,” said a young boy after smiling for some photos with his favorite players. Dick’s Sporting Goods surprised the kids with goodie bags and $100 gift cards to take home. Said another child on his way out of the store: “This was one of the best days of my life.”