Panthers first-round pick Derrick Brown this weekend lent his support to his hometown of Buford, Ga. by teaming up with Sam's Club to give five foster-care families a $1,000 gift card and a free membership to the store.
Brown made the contributions in person on Saturday morning, hoping to use his platform and resources to aid those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I know there's people out there struggling," Brown said. "This virus has caused a lot of unforeseen things to happen, and I was just trying to find some way that I could help."
Brown, 22, specifically wanted to help foster families because he felt it was important to help those who are serving others.
"When you're taking in kids, and you're trying to do the right thing, it's beneficial for us to reach out and help — especially if you're going through trying times, like some of these families are," Brown said. "They were affected by this coronavirus pandemic, and it's kind of put them down in the depths. But I'm all for those trying to help those who are trying to help themselves and help others."
Lakesha Canary is one of the foster moms who received the gift card and membership, and she actually knew Brown from when he was growing up. Canary drove buses for Gwinnett County Public Schools for 12 years and often drove Brown's football team at Lanier High School.
"It's pretty cool to see him come from living in an apartment complex, seeing them carry a football around every day, to being an NFL player now," Canary said.
Canary has fostered five children over the last three years, and currently has two teenage boys in her home. She works as an office clerk for the census bureau but was furloughed for a couple of months before she went back to work two weeks ago, with her hours significantly reduced. So for Canary, the gift from Brown could not have come at a better time.
"It's huge — he doesn't even know," Canary said. "I literally just started crying. I had to control myself because it was amazing."
When she was first invited to Saturday's event, Canary assumed Brown would be there to greet families and lift spirits, possibly handing out something like a gaming console. She had no idea he'd be as generous as he was with both with his time and resources.
"This young man filled my car with groceries, with toilet paper, with paper towels. I mean, these things are so few and far between today," Canary said. "I'm not even joking you, I had literally four rolls of toilet paper left.
"So for him to give me 35, 40 rolls of toilet paper — because these are things that are so scarce — paper towels, Lysol wipes — he doesn't even understand the impact that he made on me and my children."
Brown's goal was to provide a little relief to those who needed it, to help those in the community where he was raised.
"Being able to give back now that I've got it — I can't think of a better way to do it," he said.
And based on Canary's reaction, he accomplished that mission.
"I'm just so grateful," she said. "And for my kids to see a product of this neighborhood just flourish, I'm grateful for them to see that. I want them to see positive young men in their lives."