When a Mrs. Softie calls and says, “We’re doing a football and family day for hundreds of inner city kids and we’d like you to join us” it takes all of a nanosecond for us to say uh, YESSS. Our goal from the beginning has been to reach kids and we’re well acquainted with the magic that happens when our message comes wrapped in a 6’ 5”, 318 pound NFL Softie. So it was that on July 14, Soft Side joined forces with the Ravens’ Defensive End Lawrence Guy and his wife, Andrea, the amazing folks at Living Classrooms, the Ravens organization, 98 Rock and our humane education partners, Project Mickey, for a day that more than 300 kids will never forget.
Lawrence and Andrea make it look easy, but there is endless planning and a lot of arm twisting behind an event of this magnitude, let alone one that’s free to all attendees. Transforming Power House Field into a training facility, stadium and theme park for one summer day doesn’t come cheap – and neither does all-you-can-eat for multiple busloads of kids and their families. Between dipping into their own pockets and recruiting the help of like-minded businesses, Lawrence and Andrea pulled off the impossible. First up was a gigantic inflatable bouncy house – an attraction so tempting – one young woman who just happened to be driving by crashed it before the festivities had even begun. Turns out, she was headed to her job at Parks and Rec, saw the inflatable temptation and immediately pulled over to ask if she could give it a whirl. It didn’t matter that she was wearing a dress. It was her birthday and she was determined to make it fun.
Fun was the operative word of the day. The kids raced Ravens players Will Davis and Anthony Levine through the bouncy house obstacle course, and then joined Lawrence Guy, Kamar Aiken and Bronson Kaufusi on the field for football drills. So what if it was 97 degrees with 100 percent humidity, these kids were actually throwing balls and running drills with professional NFL players and it was a day they would never forget.
Football is hungry work and nobody was disappointed. Lawrence and Andrea brought trays of overstuffed deli sandwiches and JZ’s Brick Oven Pizza fired up a wood stove and made pizzas to order. Lawrence’s fellow Softies at Jimmy’s Famous Seafood laid out a full spread of chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks, pasta and grilled veggies. The snow cone and cotton candy machines went into overdrive and just as the festivities were winding down, The Charmery truck rolled in with four kinds of ice cream and sprinkles. Each of those companies donated their food, their staff and their time to give these kids everything their little hearts and stomachs desired without asking anything in return.
Against this backdrop, Show Your Soft Side and Project Mickey joined forces to share a message of compassion toward animals. Each child was invited to become a Junior Softie and was photographed with a stuffed animal and the message of their choosing and/or creation. Posing with signs like “tough guys can be Softies, too” or “I heart kitties” we heard countless stories of the real dogs and cats that shared their homes and their lives. Each child left with their own photo, as well as a poster of Lawrence Guy with his own three pups, which Lawrence graciously signed.
“I’m blessed,” Lawrence Guy told one reporter. “I’ve been able to use my position to help others and I’m grateful to my teammates for joining me.”
Anyone who knows Lawrence and Andrea know that they’re personally fueled by two passions – providing opportunities to kids who don’t have many and protecting defenseless animals. Several hundred autographed Show Your Soft Side posters of Lawrence Guy now hanging on bedroom walls throughout Baltimore City certainly attest to that. On one sweltering afternoon, Lawrence showed these impressionable kids that you can be tough as nails on the field and still be kind to everything on two and four legs.
When we started our campaign 5 years ago after the brutal burning death of a dog named Phoenix, we simply wanted to print a poster for every school in Baltimore City. That was our goal. In our wildest dreams, we never imagined we would have over 125 high profile ambassadors spreading our message that only cowardly punks hurt animals. Wherever our Softies go, we’re more than happy to help them spread the word. Just last month, the Guys hosted a similar event in Lawrence’s hometown of Las Vegas and Soft Side provided posters for all the kids to take home.
In addition to being a first rate ambassador for our campaign, Lawrence Guy has helped Soft Side raise critical funds by guest bartending at Jimmy’s Famous Seafood and, most recently, at the Hotel Indigo. He has shared our message of compassion and brought his beloved pibble, Bubbles, to Baltimore City schools to reward the kids’ efforts on behalf of BARCS. He’s sent private messages of congratulations to participants in the TAILS prison program and given up his own summer vacation to talk with kids in school-based summer camps throughout Maryland. He gives his time willingly and generously shares his resources to encourage kids to do their best and do no harm.
What a Softie. What a Guy.
Event photos compliments of Sid Keiser of S.K. Photography and SYSS outtake by Leo Howard Lubow.