Reds brighten holidays for Academy families

January 8th, 2021

For the fourth consecutive holiday season, the Cincinnati Reds and Reds Community Fund teamed up to support families from the Reds Academy during the holidays. This year, amidst the countless challenges presented by the pandemic, Humana stepped up to provide additional support so that a record number of kids and families could benefit.

The Reds Community Fund Giving Tree Program presented by Humana significantly brightened the holiday season for 186 kids from 78 families. Thanks to Humana’s involvement, this year’s gift packages also included a $150 Kroger gift card, which was a surprise for each family during gift pick-up at the Academy.

“We all know the holidays are a stressful time, perhaps made even more stressful by COVID this past year,” said Kathie Mancini, Medicare Regional President, Humana. “Many families are struggling financially, and some had to make difficult decisions between buying food or presents for their families. By supporting the Reds Community Fund Giving Tree program as an official sponsor of the Cincinnati Reds, we hoped to remove some of that holiday stress and allow Reds Youth Academy families to enjoy a holiday meal together. Food is an important component of not just good health, but also a strong community, and Humana is grateful to be able to help these families enjoy a holiday meal together.”

The program is open to any family with a child that participates in one of the RCF’s programs and is experiencing hardships. Families supply wish lists that the Reds do their best to fulfill. From there, it’s up to each family to decide how they want the gifts to be attributed: from Santa, from the parents or from the Reds.

Over the past few years, the Reds front office staff has become increasingly involved. Staff members and their families “adopt” Reds Youth Academy families and try to complete their wish lists and bring them some holiday cheer. Because of the staff’s involvement, the program has grown exponentially since 2017. What started then with 23 families consisting of 63 children has more than tripled.

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“The Reds Community Fund sees the athletes that use our programs as family,” said Reds Community Fund Outreach Manager Colleen Cheek, who coordinates the annual program. “We are grateful that we are able to extend support with the help of our community to our Reds family through the Giving Tree Program to make the holidays a little merrier. This program began when we found out one of our most active Academy members was struggling with homelessness in 2017. Helping that one member inspired this project to grow into the Giving Tree Program you see today. We feel called to rally community support to help our Academy members that need it the most.”

Larry Owen, father of Destiny, 14, and Gabriel, 7, has had a difficult year like so many other people. He lost family members and church members to COVID-19, and the harsh realities of the pandemic brought upon additional financial stress. Being able to provide his two children with a great Christmas meant everything to him.

“They both loved their gifts very much and we consider the help a blessing,” Owen said. “Many thanks to the Reds, their staff, the Cincinnati Reds Community Fund, and donors for the holiday food and gift assistance. We appreciate you all for blessing our children and family. You all put the 'happy' in their holiday and we are grateful.”

“I can’t express how much being a part of the Giving Tree this year has brought so much joy to our household,” another parent said. “This year more than any year has been hard for not just us, but the rest of the world. I have always struggled but I make a way for my children to have a good Christmas. This year, I was not sure I would have anything for them. The help that we received this year has meant more to me than I can express. As a mother who works, I still struggle with paying bills and being able to give my children the things that they want. The help from the Reds Youth Academy made it possible for them to have a Christmas that was not affected by the struggles of this pandemic. I thank everyone who had a hand in helping make this something memorable for them.”