Baltimore County, Maryland,Christmas,Ray Rice,Baltimore

Ray Rice makes Christmas dreams a reality for dozens of Baltimore kids

December 23, 2016
in Kids

Like he did as a player, Rice still enjoys a strong connection with Baltimore and its fans. ROSEDALE, Md. -- The Eastern Family Resource Center, an industrial-looking building run by the Baltimore County Health Department, is a matter of life and death for many of this area's most needy children and families. It provides basic health care -- check-ups, immunizations, women's health and family planning -- for a nominal fee, or for no fee at all, to the homeless and uninsured. I have lived in Baltimore all of my life and taken my daughter to drama camp and gone shopping nearby, and never knew it was there, because, frankly, I am among those lucky to have never required its services. But late Tuesday afternoon I picked my two oldest kids up from school and headed across the Beltway to the resource center. I wanted them, particularly at this time of year, to see with their own eyes a very different after-school reality. I wanted to talk to them about charity and inequality and adversity; about forgiveness and understanding; about how one's lowest moment does not have to define you forever; about how out of ugliness can come beauty. I had heard that Ray Rice was back in Baltimore for a few days (this is "Smalltimore" as many here call it, a place of few secrets), and he was going to surprise a group of at-risk kids with a Christmas they otherwise would not have had. It's the kind of thing Rice did routinely, and quietly, during his time with the Ravens, as revered for his commitment to outreach in this city as any athlete for quite some time, and it's something he continues to do in that very same manner since his heinous act of punching his wife-to-be Janay Palmer in a casino elevator has seemingly ended his NFL playing career. Rice has kept a decidedly low public profile in the aftermath of his crime outside of a few media interviews, but his private life is much as it was before. He has largely dedicated himself to children's issues and charities, sharing his story of discovery and regret with NCAA conferences and individual sports teams and whomever he may come across in the street, and staying in the best shape of his life lest some general manager actually gives him a call for an NFL tryout. If the former Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion is not home in New Jersey working out, you are far more likely to find him in a community like this just outside Baltimore City and not some posh restaurant or club. Rice was already coming in for an annual charity Toys For Tots fundraiser at Jimmy's Famous Seafood, a restaurant owned by his close friend and confidant John Minadakis, but he and his friend would have an entire afternoon free before that fundraiser started at 7 p.m. So they got to thinking about what else they could do. Rice knows many of the area's toughest neighborhoods from his ongoing work here -- Baltimore remains very much in his heart, sporting a B-more hat on this afternoon -- and they reached out to their friend, Rae Lynn Gay, mother of NBA star Rudy Gay, to help coordinate efforts. Gay is a long-time coordinator of Head Start programs in Baltimore (Rudy Gay was a prep star here and grew up not far from the Eastern Family Resource Center) and could make sure Rice and Minadakis reached the right families....

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