Thanksgiving is still over a week away, but it never hurts to get in the giving spirit a little early. The Dallas Cowboys players, joined by their wives and girlfriends as well as the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, served an early Thanksgiving meal at the Salvation Army in both Dallas and Fort Worth.
It's a long-time tradition where the team aids in feeding approximately 800 less fortunate men and women with help from Cowboys partners UnitedHealthcare and Albertsons.
The players arrived to a warm welcome with many "great games!" and "let's go 'boys!". After an exciting Sunday night win against the NFC East rival Eagles, the mood was especially cheerful. You certainly wouldn't have guessed that the team got back to Dallas after 4 a.m. and many were running on only a couple hours of sleep.
"It definitely makes it a lot sweeter," center Joe Looney said of the Cowboys' win against the Eagles Sunday night. "But either way, no matter what would've happened last night, to come out here and see their faces light up when we walk into the room, it's truly amazing that we can have this effect on someone."
After the meal was over, players spent time taking pictures and signing autographs. While it's a lifechanging experience for many at the shelters, it leaves a lasting impression on the players as well. The annual event is a favorite for many – former Cowboy DeMarcus Ware made sure he was in town so that he wouldn't miss it.
"Even though, being a retired player with the Dallas Cowboys, I know how the organization likes to serve at Christmas time but also now having an early Thanksgiving," Ware said. "Just being part of that … really all we want to do is spread some smiles and show these people that they're important."
Not only did those at the shelters receive a hot meal served by their beloved Cowboys, they also received a gift to help stay warm during the winter months. In addition, Essilor and the Essilor Vision Foundation provided free vision screenings, vision exams and eyeglasses to those participating in The Salvation Army's long-term programs.
The Cowboys still have a game against the Falcons before their annual game on the actual holiday, but the early Thanksgiving meal is a positive break from the demands of the season.