Last year’s event took up half of TopGolf’s Charlotte location. This time around, Cam Newton wanted his Thanksgiving Jam to be even bigger.
So he and his foundation rented out the entire building.
In partnership with Harris Teeter, the seventh installment of Newton’s annual event welcomed — and fed — 1,200 underprivileged kids and some of their family members Monday before sending them home with a Thanksgiving meal for Thursday’s holiday.
But even with the wildly successful event, which increased in attendance by 50 percent from 2017, Newton said there’s more to be done.
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“We want to help as many people as possible,” he said. “Just to think, we feed upwards of 1,200 kids and families today and there’s still people that’s still hungry. You just can’t do enough.”
The Panthers quarterback served food alongside volunteers and his own family members, including his 2-year-old son, Chosen. Too young to truly grasp what was happening around him, Chosen spent most of his time when he wasn’t with his father with the man who instilled in Cam a desire to serve — Cam’s father, Cecil.
“He was being chauffeured by the person who taught me,” the Panthers quarterback said. “My father has implemented a lot of great things in me, as well as my mom, and those things still carry true to me.”
Cecil Newton, who credited Harris Teeter, the Cam Newton Foundation and the countless volunteers in the building for making the event run smoothly, made sure his middle child understood the impact his influence has on the community around him — and taught him to never lose sight of what that community may be going through.
“It’s just so heartwarming during the holiday time to be able to spread cheer and show people that we respect everyday Americans,” he said. “We never want to get to a point where we’re not sensitive to what life is like on the other side of the fence.
“One of our keynote scriptures is of whom much is given, much is required. It’s not just about him obtaining wealth. At this point he can distribute influence, distribute dollars in a well-spent manner. That’s what you’re seeing here, we’re collectively trying to come together and do some things to impact the kids.”
The kids in attendance were from groups collectively part of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina’s Kids Cafe Program, which partners the food bank with existing nonprofit agencies that serve at-risk children.
One such group, the Boys and Girls Club of York County, brought 240 children to Charlotte for the night. Each of the children attends a Title 1 school.
The club’s senior director, Rasheeda White, said the Thanksgiving Jam was a surprise to the kids and a blessing in more ways than one.
“It’s a true blessing. One, to get out of York County, because most of them don’t get a chance to come to Charlotte,” she said. “Even though it’s just a couple miles away, most of them don’t ever leave York. So for a lot of them, just being out of York is exciting.
“Then to throw the icing on the cake, to take a whole Thanksgiving Day meal home, when your family is potentially struggling, is an added blessing.”
Cam Newton said he hopes the event will approach 2,000 attendees next year, providing an even wider audience for him to potentially inspire.
As Cecil Newton put it, events like this could be pivotal in these kids’ lives.
“There’s probably a person here this year or next year who, 10 years from now, might be a politician, might be a sports star, might be an educator,” he said. “This might launch their belief system and expand their horizon about what life is really about. Sometimes you might be in the projects, but the projects don’t have to be in you.”