Illinois football players give back helping area teen moms in YoungLives

URBANA (WCIA) — The Illinois football team got a different perspective into the community they represent every fall Saturday by giving back to area teen moms involved in YoungLives, a local non-profit organization. More than 100 Illini players took on a big brother role to young kids, walking alongside the children and 45 moms who were gifted a $200 shopping spree to the Urbana WalMart Thursday night. The tab was picked up by head coach Bret Bielema.

“Everybody takes care of everybody around the holidays but right now in the middle of February I want to do something when they needed it most,” Bielema said.

Whatever these young moms needed was on their lists, from home goods to baby essentials, to of course toys.

“He was most excited about his dinosaur toy, he love dinosaurs right now,” Sparkle Cowart said.

And for the Illini players, it was a chance to connect with their inner child.

“I play football but I think it’s a kids’ game too,” Illinois quarterback Luke Altmyer said. “When I’m out there I feel like a kid and it’s great to be around a lot of kids who are just happy and smiling.”

“We’ve came from the same kind of thing, we have different backgrounds but we all been around the community, we all been like different communities and like that’s always all of our thought processes and dreams is to give back to the community,” Illinois outside linebacker Ezekiel Holmes said.

Providing more than just carts full of goodies, but support and inspiration for kids and moms alike.

“It actually means a lot to me because I never really actually done stuff like this and then, the YoungLives group mean everything to me,” Macarianna Benton said. “The group is the reason why I’m here today basically. I wouldn’t still be standing here if it wasn’t for the group.”

A group that for one night included more than 100 Division I football players lending a hand.

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