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Jadeveon Clowney
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Seahawks star Jadeveon Clowney brings holiday cheer to kids in need

Seahawks DE Jadeveon Clowney with kids at the Jingle-a-Thon. (Hanna Scott, KIRO Radio)

Incredibly strong. Tough guy. Explosive. That’s what you usually think of when people describe Seattle Seahawks star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

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But Tuesday night, the 6-foot-5, 266-pound defensive end was showing his heart as he brought some early holiday cheer to kids in need.

More than two dozen kids in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound’s 1-to-1 mentoring program for youth with incarcerated parents were invited to the “Jingle-a’Thon with Jadeveon” event at the South Center Target.

The room was full of big wide smiles and plenty of excitement, as Clowney hung out with the kids and their mentors for the special night, had dinner, and took photos with #90 before he revealed the big surprise: He was giving each kid a $200 gift card and taking them on a shopping spree.

All of the kids at the event have a parent in prison or one that just got out. Clowney told them he could relate because he grew up with a dad behind bars, leaving his mom on her own to raise the kids.

That made things tough around the holidays, but Clowney says his mom made her own calendar when it came to Christmas.

The reason:

“Money — my mom would always get money around tax time. It was like February and we used to celebrate Christmas around that time,” Clowney said, adding he didn’t mind.

The rest of the year was also tough with a single mom and a dad behind bars.

“It was rough. Me and my sister grew up in a single [parent] home for a long time,” Clowney said.

“But my mom worked extremely hard [when I was] growing up. She did everything. I used to watch her come home all the time from work sweaty and I told her ‘Ma, I’m going to do something one day to just take this all away,’” he continued.

He told the kids that’s why he stayed focused on football.

And that definitely paid off.

“I was able to return [it to] her the minute I got drafted for the NFL. That’s all I ever wanted to do was take care of my mom – it’s half the reason I do what I do,” Clowney said, as a huge smile spread across his face when he explained just how good it felt to tell his mom she didn’t have to work anymore.

“Man, It felt wonderful, when I call her and FaceTime her … every other day when she hit me up, I just watch that smile across the phone and say ‘hey, Mom what are you doing?’, and she’ll be like ‘whatever I want to do,’ just not answer to anybody. She doesn’t have to go in and clock in somewhere and do a job for nobody else – and that’s all I ever wanted, to take care of her,” Clowney explained, hoping to show the kids anything is possible.

After helping his mom retire, Clowney wasn’t done using his NFL career to give back. Five years ago, he created the Jadeveon Clowney Help in Time Foundation to help under-privileged kids growing up in situations similar to his childhood with events such as the Jingle-A-Thon, where the kids could not have been more excited.

“I’m shaking, I’m like very shaken up,” said one 13-year-old girl who brought her own gift for Clowney – a big chocolate bar.

The teen was there with her mentor from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, who she was paired with five years ago when both of her parents were in prison. The two say they’re family now.

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There were similar stories with the other kids and mentors in the program, which gives kids with incarcerated parents or parents returning home from prison an outside ear to connect with and talk about their situation, or just have some fun.

About 20 percent of all the kids served by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound have an immediate family member in prison, and those kids are seven times more likely to end up in involved with the criminal justice system. That’s a cycle the organization is trying to break with the 1-to-1 mentor program. With more than 1,000 kids the waiting list, they need a lot more volunteers willing to be mentors. You can find out how to volunteer here.

After all the kids and mentors got a chance to meet Clowney, snap some pictures, and eat dinner, it was time to surprise the kids with their $200 dollar gift cards, and get to shopping.

Clowney stood at the line of red shopping carts, one by one handing carts to kids and their mentors as the group hit the Target aisles.

As Clowney headed into the aisles to shop with the kids, he fielded one final question: Are the Seahwaks going to win the Super Bowl?

“I hope so, that’s the goal – you don’t do all this work for nothing. We’re 10-2; might as well win the Super Bowl while we’re at it,” Clowney said.

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