In the last couple of weeks, wildfires have ripped through Southern California, leaving demolished homes and destroyed lives in their paths. It’s been a tough time for families throughout the Golden State, especially as we work our way through the holiday season and ever closer to Christmas day.
One family, though, got an early Christmas present that’s sure to make the difficulties of dealing with the wildfires a little less painful.
On Tuesday, Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin and defensive end Robert Quinn teamed up with nonprofit LA Family Housing to provide Shwonna Cox and her family of six with a fully furnished, four-bedroom apartment ahead of the holidays. On top of purchasing everything from beds to televisions for the apartment, Austin and Quinn also left a Christmas tree and presents for the family to enjoy.
Cox, who works for a security firm that contracts with the University of Southern California, and her children have been homeless after twice being displaced by two separate wildfires. They originally were placed in interim housing in San Fernando Valley, but were then relocated to a Los Angeles apartment. Within a 24-hour span, they were again forced to move as a result of the fires, some of which are still going on as of today.
In fact, the Thomas fire, which is still blazing, has presently consumed more than 272,000 acres and is on pace to become the largest wildfire in modern California history.
“It’s really been a crazy couple of weeks,” Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, president and chief executive of LA Family Housing, told the Los Angeles Times. “They were affected by two separate fires in two totally different parts of town. When it rains it pours — and I hope they’re feeling the outpouring of love.”
Between LA Family Housing volunteers and Rams employees, the apartment was prepared and gifts were wrapped on Tuesday morning. When Cox and her children returned from a trip to the zoo, they were surprised with their new dwelling, immediately bringing tears of joy to the mother of six.
“I just feel at peace,” Cox said, “and thank them for everything.”
It turns out, this isn’t the first time the duo has helped out a family in need.
Molly Higgins, the Rams’ vice president of community affairs and engagement, said Quinn and Austin approached the Rams separately last year expressing a desire to help families in need.
The Rams partnered with United Way, which connected the team and LA Family Housing. The players paid to furnish an apartment for a mother and her children in Sun Valley.
Here’s what Quinn had to say about his desire to help out:
“When you’re blessed as tremendously as we are as athletes, and what we get paid to do and all that, and you have an opportunity to give back and bless people that have come up through some hard times, you give back and try to make their lives a little bit easier,” Quinn said. “Like I always say, if together we as a people work together, we can bring heaven on earth. So this is just my start of trying to put heaven here.”
Austin also chimed in about making this small-but-significant impact:
“I always want to do something to help a person. You can’t help everybody in the world but at least you can get to one, and that’s where my heart has always been, so that’s what is to me. I just feel good they have a place to rest their head and call a place home.”
According to Higgins, more than 40 Rams players and their family members have been doing charity work this holiday season. While we may not hear about all of the selflessness and generosity, it’s great to hear that Austin and Quinn are doing what they can to give less-fortunate families a chance to have a truly merry Christmas.
Austin, a former first-round pick of the Rams, has enjoyed a moderately successful NFL career. Although he never did quite live up to the hype of being the No. 8 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, he’s proven himself to be a valuable playmaker capable of turning any play into a touchdown. He took a backseat in the passing game this season as other top targets came to town. Throughout his five seasons with the team, he’s hauled in 191 passes for 1,675 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. He’s also amassed nine rushing touchdowns and three punt return touchdowns during his career.
As for Quinn, another former first-round pick of the Rams, he’s quietly asserted himself as one of the league’s top pass-rushing threats in recent years. This season has been yet another example of his dominance, as he’s racked up 8.5 sacks despite missing some time due to injury. Over the course of his seven-year career (all with this franchise), he’s amassed 217 tackles, 62.5 sacks and 20 forced fumbles.
Kudos to Austin, Quinn and the Rams organization for proving that there’s more to life than just football — even in the NFL.