St. Louis Battlehawks quarterback AJ McCarron made summer memories at the Boys and Girls Club in Theodore when he was growing up. On Thursday, the former Alabama All-American helped make Christmas memories for 20 children at the center.
At Academy Sports + Outdoors in Mobile, McCarron led a holiday shopping spree for 20 youth, who received a $125 Academy gift card, then went shopping with help from members of local law enforcement agencies.
“I’ve been blessed in my life, so anything I can do – and having great partners like the Academy – to partner with them and give back to my community is something I always push,” McCarron said, “and my mom has always asked me to stay in the community and do more in the community. It’s a blessing to be able to do this, and we are very grateful to give these children the opportunity to choose Christmas presents.”
The children ranged in age from 8 to 12 years old and were from the Sonny Callahan branch of the Boys and Girls Club of South Alabama. Pamela Ware, public relations representative for the Boys and Girls Club of South Alabama, said the group worked to select young people who were eligible for the shopping trip.
“We’re always looking for opportunities for kids, so we’re very grateful,” said Ware.
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Although McCarron spent eight years in the NFL, he said he can still understand what some of the kids go through in their daily lives.
“I grew up (on Dauphin Island Parkway) like the rest of my family, and we don’t come from a lot,” McCarron said. “It was a difficult time when we came home without work or the phone did not work. We had to make decisions about which bill to pay. I’ve been in these kids’ shoes and I know what it’s like to not have a lot.”
McCarron said he also can relate to the experiences of children at their Boys and Girls Club.
“I remember going there and playing a lot of football,” McCarron said. “I played baseball for their team there one summer and I played basketball, and it really helped. But like I said, it didn’t come from much, so we had to have something to do during the summer, and my uncle (Larry Kent) ran the Boys and Girls Club in Theodore. It meant a lot to me to have a place where I could go and be with other kids and enjoy sports and the care of those people there.
“It’s great to be able to partner with them and help give back, as I was there a long time ago.”
Assisting in the purchase Thursday were representatives from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, Mobile County Sheriff’s Office and the Mobile, Chickasaw, Saraland, Prichard and Semmes police departments.
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.