ALAMEDA -- Raiders players had Monday off. Not the offensive line. That position group made an extra trip to the team complex that night to start a tradition that could last for years to come.
All 10 guys chipped in and bought Thanksgiving dinners for more than 250 low-income families, military families and community partners in the East Bay, making holidays happen for many who would have gone without.
“It was really cool,” left tackle Donald Penn said. “We had military and their families there, and they got involved and helped along the assembly line loading things up. Families were able to get pictures and autographs, and we were able to chat and get to know some of these people.
“I hope we can keep this going and that it becomes a tradition out here. Giving back is what the holidays are all about. “
Monday night’s Thanksgiving event was Penn’s brainchild, something imported from his days with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Penn and a few other linemen started contributing money for Thanksgiving dinners 10 years ago, and the event grew strong in that community.
Penn brought up the idea last minute last year – his first in Oakland – but it didn’t work out. This time the Raiders community relations department organized the event quickly and helped facilitate an event financed by the players.
“I was very grateful the Raiders were able to get on it so fast and that my teammates were so willing to contribute,” Penn said. “It was all love. Everyone was so willing to help as much as possible. It was really cool to see it all come together.”
The position group is pretty tight, bonded by spending significant time together on and off the field. They organize O-line dinners generally once a week, and have great affinity for one another. Penn said everyone jumped at the opportunity to contribute both time and money to the cause.
“We play as a group, and it’s important that we do things like this together,” Penn said. “It’s good to see the offensive line bind together and give something back to these families.”
The Raiders helped put on the event in conjunction with the Alameda County Food Bank, the Alameda County Family Justice Center and military families from Camp Parks.