SHREVEPORT, La. – Logan Tyler arrived at the Providence House in Shreveport thinking he might take photos, play a few games and make Christmas crafts with some local children before getting back to Florida State’s bowl-week itinerary.
He left with a memory that he’ll carry for the rest of his life. And the knowledge that he’d delivered a small Christmas blessing for one special four-year-old boy.
As part of FSU’s community service schedule in the run-up to Wednesday’s Independence Bowl, Tyler and a handful of teammates on Sunday morning visited the Providence House, which for the last 28 years has provided a home for local homeless families with children.
While there, Tyler struck a fast friendship with A’Darius, a boy who lives at the Providence House and who, despite only being four years old, already knows how to spin a football in fine fashion.
With temperatures hovering in the low 40s and heavy winds that made it feel even colder, the two played catch outside for more than an hour – until A’Darius mentioned that his hands were too cold to stay outside.
That’s when Tyler noticed that A’Darius didn’t have any gloves, and that his light jacket had neither pockets nor a working zipper.
“It just kind of dawned on me – this is this kid’s only jacket,” Tyler said. “It doesn’t have pockets to keep his hands warm. He can’t zip it up and actually stay warm. …
“I loved playing outside when I was little. That’s all I did. And the fact that some of those kids couldn’t be outside because they weren’t warm enough, because of things that were out of their control, it really hit me pretty deep.”
Tyler came up with a quick solution and offered his team-issue, warmup jacket to A’Darius. The jacket, meant for Tyler’s 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame, wasn’t exactly a perfect fit, but it worked in a pinch.
— LT (@17LoganTyler) December 24, 2017
For someone else, that small act of kindness might have been enough.
But Tyler couldn’t shake the feeling that, in a little while, he would be gone and A’Darius still wouldn’t have any suitable warm-weather gear. At least not any that fit him.
So Tyler hatched a plan.
He approached one of the Shreveport Police officers who had provided the team a traffic escort around town and asked for a lift to a nearby Walmart.
While there, he made his way to the kids’ clothing section, loaded a shopping cart full of jackets, hats and gloves and then headed for the checkout line, where he paid for the items with his own money.
“I’m in a position where I feel like I can give back and truly help someone,” Tyler said. “I’m just glad I’m able to help out and give back and make an impact.”
That much is certain.
Evelyn Ejikeme, a case manager at the Providence House, said that she and her staff try to teach their resident children that, despite their circumstances, they can grow up and do big things.
Getting some extended facetime with a few major college football players can help that message resonate just a little bit more.
“I think it makes a great impact on the kids,” Ejikeme said. “Because it gives them something to look forward to. We’re all about instilling hope into them for the future. They get to see some real-life football players. A lot of them play at a lower level, so they can look forward to something they can achieve.”
When Tyler got back to the Providence House, bags in hand, A’Darius had already gone inside. But when the boy saw that his newest friend had returned, Tyler said “his eyes lit up.”
“It meant a lot,” Tyler said.
For both Tyler and A’Darius.
Tyler said that performing community service – and the Seminoles will do more on Monday, when they serve Christmas dinner to veterans at Barksdale Air Force Base – brings several benefits. It helps those who could use a hand, provides a welcome breath of fresh air away from the football field and allows the Seminoles to strengthen their bonds as both friends and teammates.
“Just being around each other and doing this stuff together, it really brings us closer together as a team,” Tyler said. “It gives a lot of perspective, and just shows how fortunate we are to be in the position that we’re in, and how easy it is for us to give back.”