The week leading up to Red Friday marks one of the most exciting times of the year in Kansas City, and as always, the Kansas City Chiefs kicked it all off with a visit to the Ronald McDonald House.
From several special guests leading the kids in attendance through some fun games to the presence of the giant flag celebrating the Chiefs' 60th season, it was certainly a fitting way to get things started.
"The Chiefs and the Ronald McDonald House partner together every year, and this is something that I've been a part of ever since I got to Kansas City," said offensive lineman Cam Erving. "We're just trying to come out here, have fun with the kids and bring a little bit of light to the tough time that they're going through. It's just fun to be out here having fun with them."
Erving was joined by defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi and kicker Harrison Butker at the Ronald McDonald House, which supports families that have children in the hospital. In a sense, Wednesday's visit was meant to let those kids – even for just a little while – experience the joy of simply being a kid.
"Families are never here because of good news. It is bad news to be here – it means your kid is really sick," said Tami Greenberg, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City. "To have the Chiefs come support the families that we serve is special, and it brings a bit of childhood back into their lives."
It was a responsibility that the players didn't take lightly as they led the kids through a variety of hilarious "minute-to-win-it" games, such as racing to find a gummy worm in a pie.
"I've had family members that have struggled with a lot of different things, and it's hard," Erving said. "It's hardest on the parents, so for us to come here and for them to see their kids having some fun, letting loose and smiling – that's the biggest thing."
The visit was just the Chiefs' latest trip to the Ronald McDonald House as part of a year-round partnership between the two organizations focused on helping those that need it most. In fact, Tuesday's event included a reunion between Erving and Mackenzie Correll - one of the young residents staying at the Ronald McDonald House – who met one another during an event last season.
Erving remembered Correll from his first visit and – in some of the best news of the day - noticed that she wasn't wearing the mask that she needed during their initial encounter.
"It makes me feel pretty special that he remembered," Correll said. "It just lifts up the spirits of other kids, too, when they come and visit."
And that support isn't going anywhere, as all net proceeds of Red Friday flag sales – which will be available on Friday morning at local McDonald's, HyVee and CommunityAmerica Credit Union locations for a minimum $5 donation – will once again benefit the work being done at the Ronald McDonald House.
The Chiefs raised more than $323,000 through Red Friday last year and have their sights set on an even higher figure this time around.
"It's hard to overstate the importance of the connection between the Chiefs and Ronald McDonald House. We're proud members of Chiefs Kingdom and we are so grateful that the Chiefs and all of Kansas City supports us by buying flags on Red Friday," Greenberg said. "People don't always realize that their $5 gift adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars for families with sick kids here at Ronald McDonald House. It's hugely important and special. You can be a part of something bigger than yourself."
To learn more about Red Friday or to find a flag location near you, click here.
Kansas City Chiefs players visit Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City. While there, the players and children from Ronald McDonald House compete in game challenges.