In anticipation of the upcoming Toys for Tots game on Thursday night, the Kansas City Chiefs hosted a handful of U.S Marines at Arrowhead Stadium on Tuesday afternoon.
The event, called “Pro vs. G.I. Joe,” pitted the Marines against Chiefs alumni in video games and also served as platform for the Chiefs to donate 180 footballs to the Toys for Tots program.
For 51 continuous years, the Chiefs have the longest relationship with Toys for Tots in the National Football League.
“For a program that only started 69 years ago and for the Chiefs to have been involved for 51 of those years, that says a lot,” Gunnery Sgt. Chad Sawyer, a coordinator for the event, said. “No NFL team has that relationship. It just shows what the Chiefs mean to this community and how much this community means to the Chiefs.”
Chiefs general manager John Dorsey joined the six Chiefs alumni in attendance – Billy Baber, Shawn Barber, Keith Cash, Kevin Lockett, Jon McGraw and J.C. Pearson – in donating the footballs, officially beginning the Chiefs’ annual Toys for Tots drive.
The drive will continue at Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday night, as the Chiefs take on the Oakland Raiders.
“We have a chance to show everybody what the Kingdom is all about,” Dorsey said. This is a generous community. It’s about giving to your neighbors and that’s what we do here.”
Chiefs volunteers, along with local service members, will be accepting donations outside of all stadium gates before and during the game. Last season, the Marines and the Chiefs collected a record 2,322 toys and more than $8,570 in donations from Chiefs fans.
Following the Chiefs’ donation, the Marines paired up with the Chiefs alumni and faced off in video games against one another.
“Pro vs. GI Joe” was started in 2007 with the idea of connecting troops with professional athletes through video games. The Chiefs have partnered with the initiative in each of the last seven years.
“Our mission is not to be an autograph session or a picture-taking event,” said Greg Zinone, the founder of the initiative. “It’s about hooking up our troops with professional athletes but in such a cool and unique way that when they leave the doors, it’s not a matter of getting a cool picture or an autograph, it’s that they got to hang out and buddy with these athletes.”
The experience proved to be impactful for both parties involved.
“We’ll see the Marines come in and they love just sitting down and playing with these athletes,” Zinone said. “But on the other end, you can see that respect in the athlete’s eyes that they have for the troops and that’s what’s incredible for me, because everyone thinks that the troops are getting more out of it, but it seems like half the time – and especially here today – the athletes are getting more out of it than the troops.”
The Marines and alumni also shared more in common than either of them expected.
“There were some parallels, as some of us are transitioning out of the Marine Corps and getting ready to retire,” Sawyer said. “There are parallels with some of the things these ambassadors went through when they were getting out of the NFL - the transition and the adjustments [associated] with that.”
“But then to go over there and beat them in Madden, I felt pretty good about it.”
For more information about the Chiefs Toys for Tots drive, please visit their website at www.chiefs.com/toysfortots