Athletes give back during holiday season: How NFL, NBA, MLB players are impacting communities

It's the holiday season, and for many, that means it's a time for giving.

That includes professional athletes.

Just in 2018, we've seen the magnificent impact of sports' biggest names using their platforms for good -- like Houston Texans star J.J. Watt, for instance, announcing more than $41 million in total raised donations for Hurricane Harvey relief. These celebrities' prominence may come on a football field or a basketball court or a baseball diamond, but their hearts can extend well beyond them. And that's on display in a big way around the holidays.

With the holiday season in full swing, we present just a few of the ways athletes from around the NFL, NBA and MLB have given back to their communities this Christmas:

NFL

Christmas dinner party: The Minnesota Vikings' Adam Thielen invited 10 families who receive service from The Salvation Army to attend a private Christmas party. The get-together included a buffet dinner and hangout time with Thielen, a pile of presents from The Thielen Foundation and a personal tour of the Vikings' TCO Performance Center.

Sacks of cash: Chandler Jones, of the Arizona Cardinals, is donating $20,000 to the Phoenix Children's Hospital for every sack he records during the final two games of the season, as ESPN's Adam Schefter reported. The pass rusher already has 12 sacks on the year, so he's a good bet to raise plenty of money for kids in need.

Field full of toys: Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Golden Tate and his wife, Elise, purchased toys for children and announced the sponsorship of a baby boy as part of their own #GenderRevealChallenge, a campaign for parents to raise funds or volunteer time for kids in need.

Puppy party: A dozen Miami Dolphins players, including rookie Kalen Ballage and wide receiver Kenny Stills, partnered with Petland pet stores to host 150 kids from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties for their annual holiday toy event. Each child received gifts, made teddy bears, decorated cookies and played with puppies alongside the Dolphins at the team facilities.

North Pole flights: Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph hosted Rudy's Red Eye Express, an event during which he flew 47 patients and family members from University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital on private jets to the "North Pole," a decorated airport hanger featuring Santa, Mrs. Claus, elves, reindeer and holiday games.

Rudolph and his family have a special connection to the hospital. This year, Kyle Rudolph's End Zone opened to give patients and families a place to laugh, relax and engage in healing therapies.

Saints shopping spree: New Orleans Saints running back and Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee Mark Ingram took children of incarcerated parents on a Christmas shopping spree in order to help families who've been separated by crime.

NBA

Chef Curry: Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry surprised 40 kids at Oakland's Covenant House, a youth homeless shelter, with new pairs of his Curry 5 shoes, plus a catered meal from International Smoke, a San Francisco restaurant collaboration between Ayesha Curry and Chef Michael Mina.

School supplies: Curry's Warriors teammate Klay Thompson had his own holiday giveaway at the New Highland Academy in Oakland, where he donated classroom supplies and Christmas gifts to more than 600 students from the Academy and RISE Community School through his Thompson Family Foundation.

Giveaways with Santa: The Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook served more than 350 children through the seventh annual Russell Westbrook Why Not? Foundation Christmas party, a partnership with the Urban League of Greater Oklahoma that gifted underprivileged Oklahoma City students from after-school programs with shoes, T-shirts, backpacks and a visit with Santa.

Celtics carolers: Boston Celtics stars Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart joined other players, as well as coach Brad Stevens, at the Boston Children's Hospital as part of the NBA Cares Season of Giving. There, dressed in Christmas outfits, they sung "Jingle Bells" for kids at the hospital, with Irving leading the way.

Free Christmas gifts: Harrison Barnes of the Dallas Mavericks invited 20 families from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas and  Oak Cliff to join him in shopping for Christmas presents, providing for underprivileged children as he's done in the past during back-to-school and Adidas shopping trips.

Minnesota movies: The Minnesota Timberwolves' Karl-Anthony Towns surprised children receiving treatment at the Mayo Clinic with gift bags and joined them for a private screening of "Ralph Breaks the Internet," which hit theaters this holiday season.

MLB

Toys around Texas: A group of Texas Rangers, including Chris Martin, Delino DeShields, Matt Bush and Joey Gallo, visited the Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth to hang out with kids, while Martin captained the team's efforts with the Cowboys Santas Toy Drive, which provides gifts to children from low-income Tarrant County families during the holiday season. The team also paid visits to more than 1,200 workers at Globe Life Field at a holiday luncheon and invited youth to its annual holiday party.

Serving veterans: Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander hosted a Christmas gathering through the Wins for Warriors Foundation, which serves veterans, military members and their families. According to Climbing Tal's Hill, this is an extension of Verlander's year-round commitment to veteran support, which has included hosting more than 5,000 veterans and their families in his suite at Minute Maid Park.

Playing with the pros: The Arizona Diamondbacks' Steven Souza Jr., Tampa Bay Rays' Blake Snell and New York Mets' Michael Conforto are among MLB players teaming up for the Base By Pros' Holiday FanFest, a kid-geared camp featuring batting cages with major-league stadium simulations, a pitching simulator, hangout time with players and a visit by Santa. All proceeds from the event benefit Consider the Lily, an organization dedicated to ending human trafficking in the Philippines.

CBS Sports Writer

Cody Benjamin joined CBS Sports in 2017 after time spent with SB Nation, various newspapers and his own Eagles outlet. Raised around the Philly sports scene, he now lives in Minnesota with his wife and... Full Bio

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