As he walked down the second-grade hallway passing out school supplies at Billingsville Elementary on Friday afternoon, Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis had the same message as he left each classroom.
“Have an awesome school year, guys,” Davis told them.
Davis helped the school year get off to a good start for more than 600 students at the Charlotte school off Randolph Road.
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Through a partnership involving Davis’ foundation, the Panthers’ charity and a Charlotte-based nonprofit group, Davis and several of his defensive teammates distributed more than $21,000 worth of backpacks, crayons, loose-leaf paper, rulers, pencils, composition books, scissors and other supplies.
Davis has done similar start-of-school giveaways since joining the Panthers in 2005 at churches and community centers in Charlotte, as well as in his hometown of Shellman, Ga., and his wife Kelly’s hometown of Greenville, S.C.
But with the help of Classroom Central, a charitable organization started in 2002 with seed money provided by the Panthers, Davis and his wife for the first time took care of an entire school.
“That’s what it’s all about. We’re trying to grow every year and impact as many lives as we can,” Davis said. “Reach out to as many families and as many kids as we possibly can, and teaming up with Classroom Central has allowed us to do that this year.”
Davis was joined by the team’s other top linebackers – Luke Kuechly, Chase Blackburn and A.J. Klein – as well as rookie defensive end Kony Ealy. Given the team’s late arrival in Charlotte after Thursday night’s exhibition in Pittsburgh, Davis appreciated his teammates’ support.
“We got in late (Thursday) night,” he said. “For these guys to get up on their day off, to come out here and be with me and these kids, it means a lot to me.”
After the players passed out backpacks and supplies to a second-grade class, students immediately began rifling through the bags. Kelly Davis reminded them to use the jump ropes, which were included at the suggestion of Classroom Central.
Thomas Davis said the school-supplies charity hits home for him.
“I went Christmas without gifts sometimes and started school back without school supplies,” he said. “So I know what it’s like and I know what it’s like for parents to struggle, and I know that there’s a need here in the community.
“We’re trying to help out as much as we possibly can so these kids don’t have to go through what we went through.”