1017LanierCagleLt. Gov. Casey Cagle's comments
Children of all ages lined the sidewalk at Challenged Child and Friends, dressed in red and black and waving pompoms in anticipation of their special guests.
"Go Falcons!" they shouted as a bus carrying members of the team pulled into the parking lot.
On Tuesday, the Atlanta Falcons’ entire active roster participated in the ninth annual Hometown Huddle, a day of community service and volunteering for National Football League teams across the country.
"They enjoy this every year," said Kendyl Moss, director of community relations for the Falcons.
Hometown Huddle is held in conjunction with the NFL and United Way.
"The kids are so excited," said Kathy Cook, executive director of Challenged Child. "It will be a great experience for both sides."
During the day, the Falcons made surprise visits to local restaurants, elementary schools and other area attractions. At each location, they did a service project and left a gift to commemorate the day.
Players presented the children at Challenged Child with a shiny new bicycle, wooden block sets and small black-and-red footballs.
Falcons fullback Corey McIntyre said he was excited to see all the children.
Though he might be big, "I’ve got a little soft heart right now" he said as he watched the children play with their new blocks.
"Hopefully we can just bring up their day today."
As Cook watched the children try to break open a football-shaped pinata, she said the interaction between them and the adults was "just amazing."
Falcons tight end Alge Crumpler said working with kids is "wonderful."
"Any interaction is always going to create a smile," he said. "Look how much fun they’re having. Look how much fun we’re having."
Challenged Child is a therapeutic treatment center in Gainesville for children six weeks to six years of age. The United Way agency was founded in 1985.
Carol Williams, senior vice president of community impact for United Way of Hall County, said the NFL has had a long-standing relationship with the organization.
"It’s great having an NFL team close by," she said.
Moss said though Tuesday is the Falcons players’ only day off each week they were excited to be doing different service projects and spending time with fans, especially the children.
"We understand that our fans are the community," she said.