For every home game at M&T Bank Stadium, a member of the public relations team writes a feature story on a Ravens player in the gameday program. Wide receiver Torrey Smith is featured in the Jaguars vs. Ravens program.
Tis the season!
At this time of year, many of us enjoy getting into the holiday spirit. We turn on some classic Christmas music, decorate our homes, get our gift-giving lists in order, attend holiday gatherings and generally revel in the joy of the season.
Also during this time of the year, many decide to give to the less fortunate by supporting food, clothing and gift drives or by volunteering at soup kitchens or shelters for the homeless. It's a special time for sharing and giving.
This time of year often brings out the best in people.
But, for people like Torrey Smith, it's an all-year-long kind of thing. He is one of those very special people who truly enjoys giving back to the community whenever and wherever he can.
Now in his fourth year with the Ravens, Torrey grew up in a small town [Falmouth, Va.] about 45 miles south of Washington, D.C., and was raised by his single mother and grandmother. As the oldest of seven, he was a father figure to his siblings, helping cook dinner and keeping things running at home while his mom worked two jobs. He knows first-hand how difficult it can be for young children who may not have everything they need in life.
"My background is similar to a lot of these kids in Baltimore," Smith explains. "Even though I was from a smaller town, I can relate to a lot of the things that they're going through. [And I believe] to whom much is given, much is required.
"It means a lot – playing in this city. There's a lot of responsibility that comes with being someone children and adults admire. I take a lot of pride in being a positive role model for them. And bigger than that, I want to let them know that I'm just like them. I'm not someone who's bigger than they are – we're all the same."
The impact that the former University of Maryland product has had on our community in a short period of time is impressive. Between the events Torrey and his wife, Chanel, host to raise funds for The Torrey Smith Foundation, which supports the lives of children from "up and down The Beltway," to the team's community activities he regularly attends, Smith keeps himself very busy.
In between being one of Joe Flacco's busiest targets over the last several weeks, Smith hosted one of his foundation's signature fundraising events – the Second Annual Celebrity Waiter Night, where he and some of his teammates served and mingled with guests. Then, the following week, he joined 100 children and their families at the P.O.W.E.R. House Community Center of Living Classrooms, providing a meal and spending time playing games and making crafts with the students he surprised.
Always by his side, Chanel, a former fourth-grade teacher who also grew up in a single-mother household, says, "We've both been in those shoes before, and some kids just need a little support. There were people like our coaches and different people that reached out to us that lent a helping hand that got us to be where we are today. Hey, I was a teacher, so I saw it first-hand. And some of the kids just needed some attention and didn't have everything they wanted."
On the night before Thanksgiving, when many of us were at home, prepping for the next day's festivities, Torrey, Chanel and their 8-month-old son, T.J., were at the Night of Peace Family Shelter in Baltimore County.
The three of them, along with some of their extended family members, gathered with the 30 residents [many of whom are children], the shelter's staff and Steve Smith Sr. and his family to share a holiday meal. Many of the dinner mates only met that night, but they all came together like a family to share in a time of giving.
That's a typical couple of weeks for Torrey. He's always interested in the next activity for which he can be involved and has even surprised unsuspecting youth and Ravens community relations staffers at events that he had not committed to attending. Even though during the season, when his days are packed with meetings, practice sessions, media responsibilities and film study, he truly appreciates the opportunity to inspire others and help uplift them.
"We spend close to 12 hours [at the training facility], so I mostly get involved on our off day" Smith says. "But, it's not too much for me to spend a few hours [in the community]. I enjoy it, so I don't feel like I'm doing anything extra."
The new father confides that he has grown a lot this year. He doesn't underestimate the extreme responsibility of raising a child. In fact, he dedicated himself a long time ago to becoming a role model for his child.
"I take A LOTof pride in being the best man I can be for him," Torrey declares.
"[And I want to teach him] everything, whether it's fishing, playing sports, just talking … teaching him to be a good communicator, a person that can give and receive love – I didn't really know how to do that until the past few years. Teaching him that it's OK to be expressive and be emotional, at times – all things that are helping me in the process."
A Powerful Tool
Another way Torrey has connected with the community is through his musings on social media. It's been a powerful tool to immediately express himself and communicate directly with fans.
Recently, via Instagram and Twitter, Torrey shared with us the people and things he is most thankful for in life through "Torrey and Chanel's 30 Days of Thanks Challenge."
Torrey explained it this way: "It's so easy to consume our minds with the negatives in life, and we sometimes forget to reflect on the positives. So we decided to take the month of November [in honor or Thanksgiving] to set aside all complaints and focus on the things that we are thankful for."
It's a great idea – we should all try to reflect on the positives, set aside our complaints and focus on the things we are thankful for – now, during the season of giving and beyond.