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Ross pitches in for kids impacted by homelessness

Padres All-Star righty hosts pizza party for school's monthly birthday bash

SAN DIEGO -- It's a safe bet that if you queried the 300 or so students who devoured pizza and cupcakes at the Monarch School last week, they would tell you that Tyson Ross' best pitch of 2014 was his knack for swiftly handing out slices and dishing autographs.

Ross, coming off a breakthrough season, which included making his first All-Star team, was a hit on Nov. 20 when he stopped by the school for its monthly Butterfly Birthday Celebration and pizza party.

As part of their partnership with the Padres, Papa John's awarded Ross with 250 pizzas to the charity of his choice for his outstanding on-field delivery.

Ross' charity of choice was the Monarch School, a school for children impacted by homelessness located a long fly ball from Petco Park, donating the pizzas to cover their birthday celebrations for the next six months.

"Being a kid, I loved pizza parties and being able to do this for these guys is pretty cool," said Ross, as he looked out over the gymnasium at the school where the celebration was held. "For us, it was Thursday or Friday when we had pizza at school, and it was always one of the best days of the week."

This was Ross' first trip to Monarch School, though he's been aware of the school for a while. The Padres have partnered with the school for over 15 years and players have had a back-to-school shopping event at Target, and outfielder Will Venable serves as a math tutor at the school.

Players are encouraged on road trips to collect small shampoo bottles and soap and bring them back to donate to the school.

"It warmed my heart to get more involved with the school," Ross said.

The celebration was split into two groups -- first for kindergarten through fifth grade and then sixth grade through 12th grade. The children who have birthdays in November -- 26 of them -- then came down from the grandstand and received a gift, including a Padres hat, from Ross and his girlfriend, Ashley. Students with perfect attendance got to go next, then the rest.

Several Padres employees helped with the event at the Monarch School, as part of a handful of organized staff volunteer opportunities during the holidays.

The pizza was a big winner. But having Ross there, and the Padres' presence in general at events during the season and offseason, resonates deeply with the children, said Erin Spiewak, the CEO for Monarch School.

"The Padres have been able to help us in so many areas, whether that be moving to our new campus and volunteering at events like this or hosting us for events at Petco Park. The impact on our students has been the exposure to the care and generosity of the players but also the [showing them] a whole other life outside their day-to-day existence of homelessness."

Ross plans on remaining involved with the Monarch School and helping out where and when he can -- even if pizza isn't on the menu.

"It doesn't matter what your background is as a kid, you still need the love and attention that everyone deserves, that's a key to the future ... building up the youth and giving kids a chance at a young age to get an education and build some core values and become positive members of society," he said.

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter.
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