(EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) NFL Player Chad Ochocinco Johnson and Ruben St. Hilare pose backstage during the Children Mending Hearts 3rd Annual "Peace Please" Gala held at The Music Box at the Fonda Hollywood on April 16, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (April 15, 2010 - Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images North America)
I had a pretty exhausting weekend, full of friends visiting from out of town, Regina Spektor, Nelly, and fireworks. I managed to watch just a few innings of baseball over the entire weekend, and I'm almost as big a Reds fan as I am a Bengals fan. After the Reds lost yesterday (still in first place, 30-21!), one of the members at Red Reporter posted this link to try and cheer me up, knowing that I write for Cincy Jungle.
We all know Chad Ochocinco - we know he isn't at OTAs, we know he's out in Hollywood filming Dancing With the Stars and some VH1 show about 85 Dates. He's establishing his own brand as his football career closes in on its inevitable end. But he's also doing something that not that many people, only 5 at the time of writing, are talking about. Chad (Johnson, as you'll see he let's a certain lucky child call him) Ochocinco makes dreams come true.
Ruben St. Hilaire, Jr, lives with his mother in a homeless shelter in New York City. He's a huge fan of Ochocinco and the Cincinnati Bengals. Children Mending Hearts is a prominent organization based in Hollywood, California that recently held its gala fundraiser (Rich Eisen was there for NFL.com, and so were celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel and a couple of other people I don't recognize by name) in Los Angeles. Its mission statement reads:
Children Mending Hearts is a global arts exchange between at-risk children in America and children living in conflict zones that educates, empowers and encourages children and gives them a voice, inspiring them to a sense of empathy and desire for peace.
Ruben certainly qualifies for empowerment and voice, as written by the above mission statement. Luckily for him, his letter to Ochocinco made it all the way to the player himself. He received an autographed jersey, and wrote Chad a thank you letter that in part read:
Mr. Johnson, you really make me happy. One of my goals in my future life is to be just like you when I grow up. I wonder who was your role model when you were little? I have three role model(s) in my life that's my mom, Mr. President Barack Obama and my favorite football player Mr. Chad Johnson. To me you are the best football player in the NFL. May God bless you and your family...
Well, Ochocinco and Deion Sanders found out that one of Ruben's dreams was to go to a football camp. Now he's going to one of the most exclusive camps in the country, with a price tag ranging from $400-$760, prohibitive to Ruben and his mother. Sanders donated a spot in one of his camps to Ruben, and Mr. Chad Johnson was on hand at the Children Mending Hearts Gala to present young Ruben with the award. To top it all off, it was Ruben's birthday, and Chad led the entire crowd in singing happy birthday.
Here's a link to the video. Somehow the media was 2 weeks late on this one. Regardless, I was close to tears when Chad came out from back stage to greet Ruben.