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In keeping with the season of giving, Stamps defensive line coach Corey Mace came bearing gifts to three local organizations on Monday morning.
But instead of placing the treasures under the tree, nearly 300 local families will have something to feast on while gathered around the dinner table.
Mace’s fourth annual turkey drive collected a grand total of 292 holiday turkeys and hams for those who otherwise would go without a Christmas meal. The impressive figure shattered the previous-best mark of 131 gathered in 2015 and even topped his 2016 goal of 200.
Despite Calgary’s challenging economic times, a steady stream of donations came in at McMahon Stadium last Thursday and Friday before Mace made a weekend appearance at the West Springs Co-op to collect even more.
“As the days were rolling by, we knew we were on pace to do something special and then once we got to Co-op, we knew we had our hands full,” explained the first-year coach and former Stampeders player from 2010-15. “We weren’t sure if we had enough vehicles to load the turkeys, so it was a good problem to have. Everybody was so elated to receive the turkeys and that’s exactly what you want to see during this time of year.”
While at Co-op, kicker Rene Paredes stopped by to show his support along with dozens of members of the general public. Mace signed autographs and passed out Stamps swag while cash donations were also being accepted in order for him and his wife to make purchases themselves.
Perhaps one of the most generous supporters of Mace’s worthy cause was an anonymous shopper with first-hand experience of financial hardship during this time of year.
“Prior to this Sunday at Co-op, a man had come into the grocery store and bought 12 or 15 turkeys and Co-op stored them until Sunday,” Mace recalled. “It ended up being a man who was homeless at one point in his life and now has gotten back on his feet and wanted to give back and pay it forward because he knows what it’s like to spend the holiday season without having food on the table.”
Throughout the last several days, each donor was given the opportunity to fill out a ballot for the chance to win a series of raffle prizes such as hotel accommodation, various restaurant gift cards and merchandise from both the Stamps and Calgary Flames.
Once Monday rolled around, Mace gathered the goods which were stored overnight at McMahon and Co-op and then made deliveries to CUPS, Enviros and the Airdrie Food Bank.
Mace has already begun to ponder how to raise the bar even higher for 2017 and has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.
“My wife (Petra) is the mastermind behind a lot of this initiative and we want to start knocking on the doors of some corporate places,” suggested Mace, who first came up with the concept as a member of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills from 2007-09. “There’s plenty of ways to make this even bigger. This has just been a small project (to this point) and we’re looking to take this to the next level next year.”
But before he focuses on future of his charitable program, Mace reflected on all that has been accomplished since the creation of his turkey drive back in 2013.
“It just goes to show the kind of people that are in this city,” Mace remarked. “I’ve been in many cities in my life and this is a special one and I just hope the people of Calgary understand that.”