|Mason Sacrifices For Others And His Own|
|For the sixth straight year, Derrick Mason will host the Holiday Helpers Event, this year accompanied by fellow wideout Anquan Boldin. Along with their charitable foundations, the players donated $10,000 to 60 Baltimore-area kids to have a Target holiday shopping spree.
"It's really special for me," Mason said. "What I find interesting is a lot of times those kids are getting stuff for other people – their parents, or their little brother or sister. It's amazing. That's just selfless of them to think of someone else."
When it comes to his own family, Mason, who has two children in Tennessee, will fly home for Christmas Eve and a little morning. He'll then catch a quick flight back to Baltimore, where he will immediately board the Ravens' chartered team plane to Cleveland.
"Hey, that's what you've got to do," Mason said. "Those are the sacrifices you've got to make. The children don't understand Daddy has to work. All they know is that it's Christmas and their Daddy is usually there and their Mommy is usually there and I don't want to break that for them."
The holidays are a busy time for everyone, but throw in an NFL career and five children and it gets even more hectic.
With three daughters and two sons, Ravens center Matt Birk and wife, Adrianna, have plenty on their plate during the holiday season.
We chatted with Birk about how he goes about handling his family responsibilities as an NFL player. Here's what he had to say.
Who does the Christmas shopping?
"That would be Adrianna. About 99 percent of it. She starts two months ahead of time and keeps her eye out for stuff; she's got the long-term vision. For me, at this point of the season, I'm just kind of involved getting through the day-to-day."
Who's easier to shop for, the boys or girls?
"The boys. I know exactly what they like. They like the simple stuff. The girls, it's a little more complex. My girls think they're a lot older than they are; they like big girl stuff."
What are your holiday traditions?
"Elf on the Shelf. On Thanksgiving we read a story about this elf. He's kind of Santa's eyes. It's a doll and he sits in a spot in the house and keeps an eye on them and every night he flies back to the North Poll to report to Santa if the kids have been naughty or nice. And each morning he's sitting in a different spot. The kids dig that because they get to try to find him every morning. It's a good tool for parents [laughs]."
This season, the team is playing in Cleveland on Dec. 26th and will fly out on Christmas. How is your Christmas affected?
"There's some years where you have to travel or you're out of town the whole days. Sometimes you have to do it on the 24th or the 26th. That stuff doesn't really matter though because the kids don't mind. What matters is it's Christmas and you get to spend some time together with the family. Christmas Eve will be big and Christmas morning we'll have a little bit of time."
How difficult is that to be away?
"You feel like you miss out on a lot of stuff. The kids have different programs and stuff and you can't always make it. That's hard. But I feel pretty blessed to be doing what I'm doing and it won't last forever. I have plenty of normal Christmases ahead of us."
Note: The Birks attended "The Nutcracker" Saturday night, which featured two of his girls. They also have a Christmas concert at school to attend this week.