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Gift drive helps highlight NFL star Demaryius Thomas' legacy

Thomas passed away Thursday, Dec. 9.

ROSWELL, Ga. — Amber Woolfolk first met Demaryius Thomas during a social justice march in 2020, soon after the death of Ahmaud Arbery. The two connected and pledged to help families in the community.

Woolfolk is the CEO of Solve Cares Foundation, a nonprofit that provides funding for students that attend Title I schools and need access to affordable tutoring, test prep and academic coaching. The nonprofit also helps youth learn financial literacy and entrepreneurship. 

Last year, Thomas and Woolfolk teamed up to put on a holiday giveback, helping 10 families in Metro Atlanta collect thousands of dollars worth of gifts, food and other items for Christmas. Three days before the second annual event, Thomas suddenly passed away Dec. 9 at his home. The NFL Super Bowl Champion and All Pro was 33 years old. Woolfolk moved forward with the gift drive anyway, assisting five families in need. 

“His passing is leaving a huge gap in the community," Woolfolk said. "A little bit of me hurt throughout the day, but every time I handed a gift and took a gift to a car, I healed a little bit. There’s healing in giving. There’s healing in helping and there’s healing in supporting."

Porsha Smith and her three-year-old son, Kane, met Thomas last year during the first toy drive. Smith, a single mother who dealt with unemployment throughout the pandemic, made sure her son would never forget Thomas' generosity.

RELATED: Former Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey talks relationship with Demaryius Thomas

“Christmas would not have happened without them," Smith said. "He actually gave my son a football for Christmas last year. He was a beautiful spirit, a beautiful soul. For him to have that memory, he’ll know the work that he did and I’m sure that will stick with him forever.”

Smith said she was so moved by the kindness showed to her last Christmas, she will plan to help with future toy drives. Thomas has been known to give back throughout his NFL career and afterward, holding camps for kids and sending relief and aid to hurricane victims across the Southeast. Woolfolk said he was one to step back, not take credit and see a family's life change.

RELATED: NFL community remembers the late Demaryius Thomas

“He didn’t judge you," Woolfolk said. "Wherever you were, he met you at that place and he just supported you, needing nothing in return. The legacy he’s leaving behind is one of giving, one of transparency and love. He was very respectful. I just want to further the work. He’s like a secret superhero, like no one knew the work he was doing but it was being done. He was such a giant in the community."

Solve Cares Foundation is accepting new, wrapped toys through the end of next week at 770 Old Roswell Place, Suite A100, Roswell GA 30076. Those interested in donating can set up a time by emailing Woolfolk or calling at 678-258-0643. 

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