Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. hosted the team's 11th Holiday Helpers event at the Target on Reisterstown Road in Owings Mills with about a dozen teammates Monday evening, a cheerful event for the children participating and the host, who suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury on Nov. 1.
"It's been tough," Smith said. "If this event was three weeks ago, I wouldn't be smiling, I was down and depressed, and feeling a certain way."
But with a little more time between his injury and the event, Smith was his typical smiling, quick-witted self with the event participants. He said all he wanted for Christmas was "a healthy Achilles," though the day was about presents for everyone else involved. He declined to discuss his playing future.
Sixty local children had $200 each to Christmas shop at Target, with Ravens players, their families, cheerleaders, and team officials all shepherding them around the store.
"For me, it's an opportunity to give back in our community, and give to those kids here in the community," Smith said. "Also, I found out as I was older that I was an angel-tree kid, so I make sure that every holiday, around these holidays, that we intentionally go and give and not just say, 'Oh, we're doing a random act of kindness.'"
The players had a pre-shopping pizza party with the children before the event, and many spent over an hour walking around the store and picking out gifts for the children and their family.
Smith said: "Even though we're giving them the opportunity to shop, we're also telling them, 'Do you have any other family members that you think you can help out? Can you think about them?' We had one kid who said, 'I want to get a watch for my grandmother.' Those are the important things, for him to get this opportunity, but it's also to be selfless and think about not just what I can get, but what else can I get for someone else as well."
Other players participating included running back Justin Forsett, safeties Kendrick Lewis and Anthony Levine, guards Marshal Yanda and Ryan Jensen, wide receiver Marlon Brown, running back Terrence Magee, punter Sam Koch, long snapper Morgan Cox, kicker Justin Tucker, and defensive end Lawrence Guy.
Smith, who was on a scooter that allowed him to be mobile but kept him off his foot, said it was challenging to maneuver the store, just as it has been in many facets of his life since surgery.
"It's been a real challenge because of the dependency and the helplessness that I've felt, and I say the burden I've put on my wife," he said. "We have an infant, an 18-month old and then a 36-year-old that needs help with things. For the first two weeks, just getting clothes off, doing all that stuff was difficult because I had a cast. I had a bag over my leg to take a shower, so the first week I didn't even leave the house. I just sat in the house."