By Tasha Oxendine
The lines wrapped around the Lumberton Wal-Mart garden center as children, parents and teachers anxiously waited as the NFL Ravens Fullback Vonta Leach entered the Lumberton store. School by school Leach called out the student’s names. The Rowland native gave one hundred and twenty $100 Wal-Mart gift cards to the smiling students. 51 children were chosen by counselors and social workers from the Public Schools of Robeson County through the free and reduced lunch programs at the district. Leach also gave an additional 69 gift cards to children from South Side Ashpole School in his hometown of Rowland.
Some of the children purchased toys with the gift cards, but others sought out the basics of clothes and shoes.
Leach said he believes where much is given, much is expected. “It is very important for me as I come from Rowland, where we didn’t have a lot. To play an NFL football game and then to do this, it puts everything in perspective,” said Leach.Shereka Locklear held back tears as she talked about feeling so blessed for the donation that was given to her 11-year-old son Dewhitt. “He didn’t know about it until today. He deserves it because he is a good child and this will help a lot at Christmas time”, said Locklear.
9-year-old Josh Cooke and his 11-year-old sister Savannah didn’t waste much time picking out their gifts. Savannah purchased a Daisy rifle, while her brother sported new video games. The children’s grandfather Alvin Hunt escorted them as they proudly displayed their gifts. “It will help with Christmas. Their mother was killed last July and they live with us,” said Hunt.
The program is funded through the Vonta Leach Foundation. This is the 6th year Leach has sponsored the program. Leach is a football fullback for the Baltimore Ravens, of the National Football League.