After 12 months of almost exclusively bad news, 2020 ended on a positive note thanks to several Long Beach Poly pro sports alums, as well as some students. Poly NFL and NBA products hosted several events and made several donations to local charities, helping to brighten the spirits of many in the city.
“We’re really proud of all the athletes who’ve come out of Poly who take that ‘Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve’ sign above the gate to heart,” said Poly boys’ athletic director Rob Shock. “We’re inspired by them and we appreciate them taking care of the next generation.”
At a year-end Boys & Girls Club event, Willie McGinest presented the Long Beach B&G Club with a $50,000 donation from he and other Poly NFLers, including Marcedes Lewis, DeSean Jackson, and Jayon Brown.
“This is our city and it’s important we take care of the kids here,” said McGinest.
That wasn’t the only event, though. McGinest and current Poly students and basketball players Peyton Watson, Christian Watson, and Jalen Pitre hosted a toy and ball giveaway before Christmas at the Boys & Girls Club in West Long Beach, giving away hundreds of Christmas presents to kids in the community.
Poly alum JuJu Smith-Schuster’s foundation helped with donations to charities in Southern California and Pittsburgh, but also by paying off $25,000 worth of gifts that had been put on layaway at Burlington Coat Factory and Walmart in Compton.
The JuJu Foundation was represented by Smith-Schuster’s family as he had a game in Pittsburgh the next day.
“I’m blessed to be able to give back to families in Pittsburgh and California during the holidays,” Smith-Schuster said in a statement. “We hope paying off these layaway balances will cause a sense of relief and lift the spirit of all these families.”
Smith-Schuster’s mother, Sammy Schuster, said she remembered having kids at home that she was struggling to get Christmas presents for, and said those memories inspired her son to try and brighten others’ holidays.
Other acts of service are at an even more essential level. Poly NFL alum Jurrell Casey, a five-time Pro Bowler who was in Denver this year after spending his whole career with the Titans, was using his foundation to feed the kids. The Casey Fund hosted free “Feed the Youth” food giveaways partnering with local restaurants throughout the Fall and holiday season. The weekend before Christmas they provided hundreds of free Chick-fil-A lunches to Long Beach kids and families.
Adding to the family feel of the donations was the fact that all the current NFL players were represented by their parents at the different events. Lewis and Brown are both headed to the playoffs, but Lewis’ mother Yvonne Withers was at the check presentation, alongside Brown’s father, Jason Brown. Smith-Schuster’s mother Sammy represented him, and Casey’s mother, Collette Burns, volunteered and was passing out food at all of the Casey Fund’s giveaways.
Brown and his high school friend Jordan Bell, a Poly alum who’s been in the NBA the last few seasons, also sponsored a pre-Christmas shoe giveaway at Long Beach’s Shoe Palace.