Dressed in red and white, a smile on his face, and a belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly.
Santa? Nope, Corey Mace.
While one can excuse the Calgary Stampeders defensive line coach and former CFL player for no longer being in the game shape, that doesn’t mean he can’t still get after it: only now he’s chasing Christmas turkeys for families in need instead of quarterbacks.
Being a rather large man himself, Mace says it was an easy decision to focus on the family meal for his charitable spirit.
“Food is a big part of my life, and so is family…It was an easy decision to try and give those less fortunate a happy memory for the holidays,” he said.
Mace started his Turkey Drive while he was still patrolling the field in Calgary and gathered 89 turkeys and Christmas hams in his first year. It’s grown annually and setting a new standard again this year.
Between cash donations, birds, hams, and corporate support, Mace was able to gather 414 meals for local charities. Mace even held a few charity boxing classes at a local gym, which left this scribe notably gassed.
The Turkey Drive primarily supports the Airdrie Food Bank which Mace says was a conscious decision.
“Lots of people and companies focus on the Calgary Food Bank but we have a lot of fans in the surrounding areas as well, so we wanted to make sure they got taken care of,” he said.
Mace isn’t the only one who gets in the festive mood each year as 2017 represents the third year of Mitchell’s Miracle Day, where Stampeders QB Bo Levi Mitchell, along with his wife Madison, spends a day pampering kids who may not have had a Happy Holidays.
Mitchell, and his wife Madison, spend the week leading up to the day driving around town picking up gift cards from fans who are happy to pitch in.
Like Mace’s Turkey Drive, the goal becomes more ambitious with each turn of the calendar. In 2015, they took two kids shopping and this year four families from Big Brothers and Big Sisters took to the mall.
Donations rolled in from fans, teammates, other CFL players, coaches, league staff and media members who all contributed to the total which exceeded $15,000.
While both of these initiatives are organized almost entirely by the players themselves, the Stampeders take an active role in the charitable endeavors the players bring to the table.
“It’s really rewarding,” says Max Campbell, Stampeders Community Relations and Communications Coordinator, “I can go out in the community and help these guys do what they can. They are really passionate about it. They completely volunteer their time, they don’t have any incentive beyond just helping the kids and making the impact.”
Whether it is the visit to the local children’s hospital the day before every home game or the basketball barnstorming school tour through southern Alberta school gyms every offseason, Campbell believes it’s the players who live in the community year-round that help make the Stampeders a force for the better.
“It is our high profile guys who are out in the community, such as Bo and Alex Singleton who can make an impact year round,” he said.
It is a directive that comes straight from the top. John Hufnagel was instrumental in bringing the PinkPower campaign to the CFL in 2008 and has always stressed the importance of giving back to the community and makes sure his players and coaches know that the team will be on their side if needed.
Both Mace and Mitchell would love to see other teams emulate their efforts during the Christmas season.
“Why not go league-wide?” asks Mace.