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Hopkins, former Tigers bring smiles to children’s faces

Deandre Hopkins has always been Jenna Truesdale’s favorite Clemson player. In fact, she feels he is the most underrated of the Tigers’ superstar players to come through the program the last 10 years.

“He just does not get the credit for how great he really is,” she said with a bright smile on Saturday.

So when Truesdale ran across a chance circumstance to help the Houston Texans’ wide receiver out last year she jumped at the opportunity. Through a friend, Truesdale met Hopkins’ mother, Sabrina Greenlee, last year in a chance meeting and as Greenlee was telling them all about what she had to do to get the “Back to School Book Bag Giveaway” coordinated, Truesdale, who is good at coordinating events, offered her services.

“I just kind of got my feet wet last year, so when we met in January to start planning this year’s event, she said to take and it a run with it. We want it ten times bigger than it has ever been,” Truesdale said. “I think we accomplished that today.”

With Truesdale providing help, last year’s event went well as more than 2,500 people showed up for the free event at the Clemson/Central Recreation Gym.

Besides giving away book bags to kindergarten through 12th grade, the Back to School Book Bag Giveaway is also a family-fun party that ran from 9 a.m. through 10 p.m., which includes games, free food, two live bands and a basketball tournament.

“The big thing this year is (Hopkins) wanted everything to be laid back,” Truesdale said. “He wanted a family feel. He wanted people to come out and hang out like they were at a backyard barbecue kind of day and to really bring the community together.

“We are definitely reaching out to the kids with book bags and the bounce houses and things like that, but he wanted to target everybody, not just the kids, and we provide free food, free drinks and free entertainment … everything all day long, so I love the guy even more now.”

Truesdale estimated at least 3,000 people came to Saturday’s event at Dawson Field just off Old Church Stone Road in Clemson. The Book Bag Giveaway Party is a part of Greenlee’s mission against domestic violence.

“It has been an incredible event and to see everyone so happy … it is hot, but we are happy,” said Truesdale’s a 2005 Clemson graduate.

Hopkins, along with former Daniel High School and Clemson stars Jarvis Jenkins (Kansas City Chiefs), DeShawn Williams (Cincinnati Bengals) and Shaq Lawson (Buffalo Bills), teamed up with Greenlee’s SMOOTH (Speaking Mentally, Outwardly Opening Opportunities Toward Healing) Organization for the fourth annual Back to School Book Bag Giveaway.

“This is giving back. My mom and I, Jarvis Jenkins, Shaq Lawson and DeShawn Williams, we just want to give back to the community that helped us out so much and did so much for us growing up,” Hopkins said. “All of these people out here supported us throughout our careers from Central Recreation, Daniel, middle school and even in college. They still do to this day because they go and buy our jerseys so it is only right that we do something to give back to this community.”

As a teacher at Seneca’s Blue Ridge Elementary, Truesdale loves the fact Hopkins and Greenlee are both stressing the importance of education with the giving away of book bags as well as other school supplies the children might need to be successful in school.

“It is incredible that somebody would still be so humble,” she said. “You expect they would get superstar status. You don’t expect to see them again, especially in such a small place and doing something for kids they have never met. Watching him shake hands and high-five the kids at the football camp he did (Friday), all four of them, it is amazing they would come home … they just don’t want to come home and see mom and then leave kind of thing. They come home to give back.

“It is very humbling to watch. It is amazing. One of the biggest reasons I decide to help is because I am a teacher. I teach in a Title 1 School with the kids that are targeted for this type of activity. I have seen a lot of my students out here today and they are so happy.”

Photo Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

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