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Meals and Memories

02 Dec 2021 | 09:06 | Football

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Joyce Brown couldn’t help but smile as she took in the scene around her.

To her left, the three foster children in her care sat on the turf of the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility playing Connect Four with several members of the Miami football team. Not far, more children tossed a football around with some of the Hurricanes, laughing as they sprinted up and down the field.

And spaced out on tables throughout the facility were boxes filled with all the ingredients to make a full Thanksgiving dinner, from perfectly portioned turkeys to side dishes and pies – ingredients that, earlier in the day, the Hurricanes has selected themselves.

“To me, this is so heartwarming,” Brown said. “These young athletes are reaching across different generations, spending time with the foster parents and all these little ones that look up to them…It’s amazing. It’s beautiful. It’s such a good image for the children…I’m delighted.”

She wasn’t the only one.

On Monday evening, there were smiles aplenty when the Hurricanes hosted a special Thanksgiving event for 10 families that are part of the Miami-Dade County Foster and Adoptive Parent Association, a support group for foster and adoptive families, non-relative caregivers and the children those families serve.

Hurricanes players and coaches – along with members of Miami’s swim, cheer and dance teams – spent time with the families, playing games, coloring and, of course, talking a little football.

“I really enjoyed this,” Hurricanes linebacker Corey Flagg said. “I got to play football with them, throw the ball with them and it was just so much fun to see the smiles on those kids’ faces.”

For the Hurricanes, the preparation for Monday’s event began hours earlier.

In the morning, representatives from each of the team’s position groups made a special trip to a local grocery store where they navigated the aisles in search of all the ingredients to make a memorable meal.

For some of the players, it was their first time shopping for a Thanksgiving dinner. Others had tagged along a time or two when their own families prepared for holidays past.

There were good-natured arguments over whether apple, pumpkin or sweet potato pies should be bought. They debated which kinds of stuffing better suited the meals and many of the savvy shoppers made sure they loaded up on buy-one, get-one deals to give the families they were meeting even more goodies.

“I feel like the community has done a lot to support us, so to give back to them, it’s the right thing to do,” said quarterback Tyler Van Dyke. “We know this means a lot to these families and some kids that have grown up in tough situations. Giving them all we can give, all the food for Thanksgiving, is something special.”

Added striker/safety Amari Carter, “It’s a blessing to even be able to do this…We play football, but there’s so much more to it. The ability to do this means everything. There are so many families out there that could use some help with meals, with many things and the University of Miami is showing we care about those families. It means the world…There’s no amount of help that’s too much.”

Monday’s event was just one of the various community service projects the Hurricanes have undertaken in recent months.

Over the summer, several members of the football team participated in a beach clean-up, while others spent time at local schools and camps. Some of the Hurricanes delivered meals to first responders at the site of the Surfside condominium collapse during the rescue operation in June and yet others attended a peace march to raise awareness about gun violence.

As they’ve navigated their season, the Hurricanes have also attended leadership classes, written pen pal letters to local elementary school students and more.