Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman watched the news, saw the migrant families and wanted to help. So he made some phone calls, impatiently waited and made a last-minute pitch to a buddy -- New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis -- to join him in San Antonio. That’s where they delivered goods to migrant families who had been in detention at the border.
The trip was long -- Davis flew in from Denver, Norman from New York City -- and the shopping spree even longer. They slept for perhaps three hours. That’s not what stood out most to Norman and Davis, however, when recounting their handing out supplies.
Rather, it was a nearly 10-second embrace from a woman and another hug from a child.
We are so thrilled to have Pro Football Player @J_No24 volunteering with us today! We already put him to work assembling backpack care packages for families. He was up all night.— RAICES (@RAICESTEXAS) June 27, 2018
Thank you, Josh! #FamiliesBelongTogther #TeamWorkMakesTheDreamWork pic.twitter.com/Re2hqWXNyd
#compassionateSA Saints linebacker @demario__davis & Redskins cornerback Josh Norman were at the San Antonio bus terminal today handing out care packages to immigrant families there. "If you see wrong, you stand up and do something about it," Davis said. @J_No24 @RAICESTEXAS pic.twitter.com/9BjIsfq4D4— CompassionNET (@CompassionNET1) June 27, 2018
“I could feel the weight lifted off her shoulders onto mine,” Norman said. “It was like she was carrying this big burden. I feel good to help. That will always stick with me and seeing one of the kids light up like a Christmas tree. She ran and gave me a swan-dive hug.”
Norman and Davis handed out nearly $10,000 worth of supplies to migrant children and families at a San Antonio Greyhound bus station on Wednesday. The migrants had been released from detention centers but were waiting to be transported elsewhere. Norman and Davis split the cost of the items and paid their own way. They worked with the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) to hand out backpacks full of items ranging from toys to snacks to toiletries.
Norman said he and Davis arrived in San Antonio around 6 p.m. Tuesday, ate dinner and then headed to a local Walmart where they shopped for four-plus hours -- filling 12 shopping carts. Norman said they put thought into what they were buying and didn't just pile random items into the carts. If it was something he liked to eat, for example, it was bought.
“It felt like 30 minutes because there was such joy in what we knew we were doing,” Davis said by phone.
They finally returned to their hotel around 4 a.m. They arrived at the facility around 9 a.m., and after a short tour they handed out items until about 6 p.m. By the next morning, Norman was again on a flight, this time to attend summer workouts. He’s also going on a family vacation next week. In other words, it’s a busy time. But he wanted to make sure he squeezed in the trip to San Antonio.
“I caught on TV that this was going on, and I got fed up with it,” Norman said.
He reached out to Lauren Phillips, one of his managers, to see what he could do. He said he wanted to react immediately, but Phillips researched the best options and it took a week to set up the trip. A day before he was to leave, Norman reached out to Davis, who he said didn’t hesitate.
“Me and Josh could go on TV and talk about how bad the situation is and how people are being mistreated and people can [get mad or agree],” Davis said. “It’s harder to judge actions than it is words. But the people who don’t agree, they were never going to agree in the first place. It’s the people on the fence who are sitting idle and thinking about doing something. Just go do something; sacrifice a little time or resources to help people who are hurting.”
Norman also donated $100,000 to Hurricane Maria relief in Puerto Rico. Davis runs summer camps for kids in Jackson, Mississippi, and has funded missionaries.
“We’re in a time where we need to take actions of compassion, actions of humanity when we see wrong,” Davis said. “When you see people going through certain things, you need to put yourself in their shoes. If my kids were separated from me, how would I feel -- no matter what the circumstances were? We knew we couldn’t change the situation, but we could change their day and put a smile on their face.”
The migrants did not know who the players were, and they needed translators to converse. Norman estimated they handed out items to at least 90 people throughout the day.
Norman said seeing the families in the bus station changed his outlook, putting into perspective some of his own complaints. He said he wants to continue helping.
“Just understanding the ramifications of things and knowing if I’m in a place to help, then I must do that, and I have,” Norman said. “I’m blessed with a contract that says do goodwill towards men. I must do what I’m called to do and that’s help people that need it the most. I want to show I’m not just a football player.
“Don’t treat people like they’re dogs off the street because they’re not your color or from where you’re from. That’s not the way to go; that’s not what we’re built of.”
But the day wasn’t about politics as much as just wanting to get involved. And the trip left a mark on the players.
“Those hugs will be with me the rest of my life,” Davis said. “And listening to the people on the ground, they were talking about this is the first time a lot of them had someone do something nice for them. What they’re running from, and the reason they’re coming here, is because the situation where they’re at is so bad. People have been using and abusing them their whole life. To escape here and they’re still being mistreated and to get off the bus and have someone show them love, it was an amazing moment.”