On Tuesday, Giovani Bernard partnered with Tide Loads of Hope to make the day of one local family in need of new clothing.
Natalie, a single mother of five and local Oakley resident, found herself in a position where she needed to make some tough decisions for her family. Thanks to the year’s supply of clothing for her family donated by the program, she doesn’t have to choose between providing food and providing clean clothing for her children. I sat down with Natalie and Bernard on Tuesday during the donation ceremony to discuss Bernard's role in hosting the event and surprising the family with his appearance.
"It was almost like a Christmas-y feeling in July, even though it's like 90 degrees outside," Bernard said. "To be able to see them smile like that, to be a part of something like that, it brings it back, not that many people can experience something like that."
Natalie was also really touched by being the recipient of the donation.
"[It means] a lot," Natalie said. "I really can’t attend church like I should because I have sporting events. Weekends are not weekends for me. It’s for my kids and it’s filled with nothing but sports."
It’s great to see a player like Bernard get so involved in the local community and helping families in need. But, he doesn’t do it for the publicity or the accolades. He told me he just loves giving back to the city that has brought him so much.
"I think the biggest thing is, you want to be able to give back to the community," Bernard said. "You want to be able to give back to the fans that are coming to the games, that are making it hard for the away teams. So, me being able to do this, as simple as it is, it's something that's amazing that impacts these kids and even the mom. It impacts these people. To be able to be apart of something like that is amazing. I just love being a part of that."
In particular, Bernard's decision to be involved with Tide Loads of Hope’s event for Natalie and her family was inspired by his ability to relate to their struggle.
'I can relate to what she's going through, growing up with just my dad and my brother. Having that single parent is tough," he said. "It's not something that's easy. For any mother or any father out there that is a single parent, it's very difficult. They understand, when somebody helps, how much that means to them. This is something that's just a simple token, but it goes a long way for them."
For Natalie, the work of being a single parent raising five children is never ending. It’s the kind of thing that really creates the need for this kind of help from active members of the community. Being a single mom, raising five children is no easy job.
"Very busy. No sleep. It’s tedious work.," she said. "You have to do this, you have to do that. The kids have to be in bed and they have to go to school. I have to go to work and football practice. "
Despite the hectic nature of their schedules, Natalie and her family still find the time to be Bengals fans. She mentioned that two of her boys play football themselves, so she explained how meeting Bernard as part of the event was an incredible experience.
"Amazing, very nice guy," she said. "My nine year old is a huge Bengals fan."
There was no doubt that she and her family were absolutely thrilled to meet Bernard, in addition to receiving such a generous donation. However, Bernard isn’t the first player she’s met. She explained one particularly cool connection that she has with a former player.
"33 years," she said when I asked how long she has been a fan. "Actually, Bruce Kozerski was my high school calculus teacher."
All in all, it was a great experience for a Cincinnati family in need who had a blast meeting Bernard. Tide Loads of Hope, founded in 2005 in response to Hurricane Katrina, is a fantastic charity that has helped 45,000 families in need of clean clothing. In partnership with Matthew: 25 Ministries, they are hoping to double the number of families they can help in the next nine years.
"If fans want to get involved, they can go to TideLoadsofHope.com and donate there," Bernard said. "They can bring their stuff to a Tide dry cleaners."
In addition to Bernard’s suggestion, readers at home can purchase a t-shirt on the website to benefit the charity. The donation centers located in the Cincinnati area are in Anderson Township, Liberty Township, and Mason.
Natalie also had some advice for anyone looking to get involved and help out.
"Donate some of your time," she said. "What you don’t need, somebody else needs."
Kyle Phelps | cincyjungle.com | July 27, 2016