CLEVELAND -- The holiday season has finally arrived. It’s the time when families come together to share a large turkey dinner and begin shopping for gifts. Maybe some even file into the local photo studio to get a group portrait taken for a holiday card. But these luxuries can easily be taken for granted.
There are plenty of households that can’t afford the same type of Thanksgiving dinner or an equal number of presents that others may have. That’s what the Indians are helping to fix.
On Sunday, the Indians and Delaware North Companies hosted the club’s annual Thanksgiving Meal at Progressive Field. Approximately 400 members from Our Lady of the Wayside, Shoes and Clothes for Kids, Boys and Girls Clubs, Ohio Guidestone, The City Mission and Koinonia Homes funneled into the Terrace Club for an unforgettable afternoon.
The families were first greeted by a youth band from the Boys and Girls Club, who dazzled Indians employees with Christmas carols. Each group then worked its way around the room, beginning with an optional professional photo session with the team’s photographers. Kids could then visit with Santa and receive gifts, thanks to the Third Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment from Brook Park, as part of their Toys for Tots program.
“What’s really great about it is how much the Indians really care about the community, and today is an example to express that,” president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland Ron Soeder said. “Their staff is committed. They’re here, they’re enjoying themselves, they bring their families out and they make us feel like a family. And they do that year-round. This is sort of one day, but they do it all year long and they are very committed to the community, and you won’t find a better group of genuine people in an organization that doesn’t necessarily have to care about the city.”
Finally, in the back corner of the room, members of the organization, including general manager Mike Chernoff, president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and owner and CEO Paul Dolan, served some traditional Thanksgiving dishes.
“We do a lot of things throughout the year to serve our community,” said Dolan, who manned the mac and cheese pan. “But this particular event around Thanksgiving, you see the immediate impact as families come through and get a chance to have a great meal. That’s particularly rewarding for all of us and me as well.”
Kids and their parents chose from salad, green beans, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, ham and turkey before carrying their plates over to their seats that overlooked Progressive Field.
“It’s so fun to see people’s faces light up when they come in here,” Chernoff said. “To be able to look out on the baseball field, enjoy their experience here and that we can help facilitate that is really special for us.”
It’s a moment so special that the advancement officer from Ohio Guidestone, Arian May, said that a 17-year-old boy in their program broke down in tears when he was told that he was going to have the opportunity to go to the ballpark to partake in the activities.
“They’re so happy and excited,” May said. “The Indians do such a good job here, because they hit every point. They’ve got the family photos, the food, the executive team mingling and then Santa. This is our seventh year doing it, and it’s just so awesome.”
Before leaving for the afternoon, kids ran over to the Tribe’s mascots, the Hot Dogs and Slider, to dance and get pictures after filling their stomachs with a large helping of pie.
“It’s super fulfilling to see,” Antonetti said. “The best part is seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces. Everyone walks in with this excitement and to have them experience not only the food but everything else, everyone leaves here with a big smile too, so it’s a lot of fun to see.”