NFL Star Wide Receiver Gives Back to CASA DC’s Foster Youth
On Monday, September 12, 2022, The Washington Commanders Star Wide Receiver, Terry McLaurin, held his 27th birthday party in honor of foster youth in the DC area. The day after scoring a 49-yard touchdown for the first game of the Commanders football season, McLaurin hosted foster youth from CASA for Children of DC and Big Brother Big Sister at the FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.
This birthday party for Terry McLaurin was the debut event for his new foundation, the Terry McLaurin Foundation, where he will honor foster youth. Terry McLaurin shared with CASA for Children of DC that he wanted to have this party for foster youth because he knows oftentimes they do not get a celebration for their own birthday, so he wanted to make sure they had a celebration they would always remember. In order to make this event happen, Terry invited CASA DC’s youth to be a part of this event with him through CASA DC’s Senior Manager for Outreach and Initiatives, Alexandra Fields-Evans. Alexandra and her team had been coordinating this event for months, making sure that all youth involved with CASA DC knew of the opportunity and eliminating any barriers to their attendance of the event. This is a crucial part of providing accessible and fun opportunities to youth and their families, as well as their foster placements and CASA volunteers. Events and opportunities like this creates a sense of community with all those involved and provide a fun outlet for our youth.
This event in particular was a massive party, with nearly 75 youth and 40 families celebrating together. After entering the event, party-goers were met with a lively DJ, moonbounces, fun games, as well as a face painter! Plus, burgers and hot dogs for dinner with the fan-favorite cotton candy as a sweet treat. While families were dancing near the DJ booth and eating dinner, Terry McLaurin entered the stadium, and the energy in the room grew ecstatic from all of the children and families who attended.
Terry McLaurin took time to thank everyone who attended at the DJ booth, “I really appreciate the opportunity for you all to be here, and to celebrate you.” Afterward, he immediately engaged with youth and families lined up to shake hands, take pictures, get memorabilia signed, and more. Terry greeted each family with a smile and took copious amounts of time engaging with these youth one-on-one. After walking around the event, this CASA DC intern was able to catch up with a youth who was more than thrilled about meeting Terry, and here is what she had to say about it:
“I love how everybody came around to celebrate a good player's birthday and how he actually showed up. The decorations and the effort to have fun things was cool. I love how there is an activity for everyone, and everyone is so nice.”
After being asked how she felt about meeting star wide receiver Terry McLaurin, the youth’s smile grew from cheek to cheek, and she continued to say:
“It was pretty cool meeting Terry. I like how he was so nice taking pictures with everyone and how he gave me an awesome autograph!”
Following some meet and greets, Terry interviewed with the different media outlets in attendance. Then, the entire group gathered around him to sing “Happy Birthday.” The kids jumped up and down singing “Happy Birthday” while the accompanying adults recorded their youth’s reactions. Terry blew out the candles for his 27th birthday on a delicious chocolate cake that read “Kick Hunger” provided by Safeway and enjoyed by all who attended. Then it was time for a private tour of the Commanders locker room!
While waiting for the first tour group to join us, this CASA DC intern got to exchange a few words with Terry McLaurin, and this is what he had to say about the event:
“I’m really fortunate to be in a position to use my platform to make an impact on so many kids, and to be partnered with CASA, Safeway, and Big Brother Big Sister. It truly means a lot to me” –Terry McLaurin
Shortly thereafter, groups of families entered the Washington Commanders locker room for a private tour from Terry, who showed them his locker and more quirks of the room. At the opposite end of the locker room stood two tables with dozens of boxes of brand new pairs of sneakers and kicks. Most youth were able to receive a new pair of Nikes or Adidas, which left them with looks of disbelief on their faces. All youth were gifted a Commander’s t-shirt with Terry’s number on the back and a $100 Safeway grocery gift card! The children grew excited as they waited in line for pictures and autographs from Terry on their brand new shirts. This CASA DC intern was able to capture a few words from a very delighted foster mom:
“It is great that they do this for the children and CASA is just awesome! It gives the children a chance to see someone they idolize on TV and to see what a great role model he is in person, it is very nice. These kids will remember this forever” –Foster Parent*
To fulfill this need for role models, CASA for Children of DC strategically looks for partnerships and mentors such as Terry McLaurin for our youth to look up to. It is important for our youth to meet someone like Terry, and see his work ethic as well as his motivations to give back to the community. This creates a sense of humanitarianism in our youth and an understanding that it is kind and thoughtful to care for others. Events like this and role models like Terry McLaurin can inspire our youth to develop career aspirations, focus on their education, set goals, and build on their personal values.
As the event started winding down, youth and families left overjoyed at the amazing experience put on by Terry McLaurin and Safeway. All of them were so thankful and elated to have gotten all these surprising gifts, in addition to having had the opportunity of a one-on-one experience with an NFL star wide receiver.
A few closing remarks on the event from Terry McLaurin’s manager:
“This is the first event for the Terry McLaurin Foundation, and we are extremely thankful to Safeway for making this happen. Terry is honored to work with CASA because he believes in the work the organization does by helping be a voice for kids. Terry wanted to provide a fun night for these kids who have been through a lot, and we’re just hoping they remember this for the rest of their lives” –Ryan Altizer
By the same token, this night will be one that CASA DC youth will remember forever. Part of being a CASA volunteer is engaging our youth in positive events and experiences like this one mentioned above because to promote their well-being. In addition, as an organization, CASA values its volunteers' time and dedication to our youth, as well as the positive impacts they make on their lives. A big thank you to all of the volunteers who helped out, Safeway, The Terry McLaurin Foundation, and of course, Terry McLaurin himself. CASA DC’s youth were incredibly enthusiastic by this once-in-a-lifetime experience provided to them.
Are you looking to make a difference like Terry McLaurin? CASA for Children of DC is on the search for more Black male volunteers to serve as role models for the Juvenile Justice youth we serve. The ability to have role models like Terry McLaurin is great, but he is not able to be there for our youth on a consistent basis. It is important to have one on one interactions between our foster youth and juvenile involved youth, as well as Black male volunteers. Currently, 49% of the youth CASA for Children of DC serves is Black and 61% of the youth served are between the ages of 16 and 20 years old. This is a call to action for recruitment of Black male CASA Volunteers. You are needed to serve as a role model and be someone who our young people can look up to.
If you or someone you know is interested in sponsoring an event for CASA youth please reach out to Alexandra Fields-Evans Senior Manager, Outreach and Initiatives at email@example.com. To be able to support our youth in more positive opportunities like this one, feel free to make a donation on CASA for Children of DC’s website, https://www.casadc.org/other-ways-to-give.
To get your CASA youth involved with more opportunities like this one look at our events calendar at https://www.casadc.org/events. CASA volunteers, you can also contact your CASA supervisor to find out about any future events that may be available to you. Also, be sure to check your emails on a regular basis as this is the main form of communication about some spectacular upcoming events that CASA has planned for you all!
*(Name has been hidden for privacy)
-Kathleen Watt, CASA DC Intern