DENVER — Five years ago, just before winter break, a young Jayden Tolson met his hero.
“He told me ‘start something, make sure you finish it all the way through’ even if you had hard times, never to give up," Tolson recalled.
Demaryius Thomas regularly showed up at the Denver Broncos Boys and Girls Clubs' events. Tolson met him during an after school program there.
“Ever since then he’d been communicating with me – making sure I’m doing good," Tolson said, adding that he used to keep up via text and Instagram with Thomas.
The connection between the two was a common one for Demaryius Thomas as he made bonds with many children over the years.
“He would show up, unassuming, just like one of the fellas," said Rich Barrows, the Denver Broncos Boys and Girls Club Director. “We have a lot of kids that have different burdens to bear and I think he could relate with those kids … kind of know what they needed."
Barrows shared stories of his time with the kids at the program, and when Thomas dressed as Santa Claus for an event.
“It wasn’t just a check, it wasn’t just an appearance, it was him getting to spend a little more time with our kids," he said.
Up in Broomfield, the non-profit organization, A Precious Child, hung a Demaryius Thomas jersey in the middle of their distribution center, as volunteers worked to pack gifts for their annual gift drive.
“His heart was so big and his involvement with A Precious Child and our kids is something we’re going to remember forever," said Chief Communications Officer Courtney Wickberg.
It's something that Thomas was involved in, as a "celebrity ambassador" for the organization.
“He would be the first to sign footballs, sign jerseys so that we could give those to kids in need," said Wickberg.
But the real impact came from the football camps Thomas hosted over the years, she said.
“He doesn’t play football with them, then sit down and take some pictures, he really invested in those kids and took time to talk with them and just relate with them," she said. “Most people know DT could really relate to the kids that we serve, kids in need, and how important it was for them to be involved with sports and involved in football.”
Overall, people like Tolson who made bonds with Thomas as a teen, say he left his mark on him.
“He would want everybody to keep a smile on their face and, you know, push through," he said. “And whoever is going through the struggle, he’s always going to look down on us and show us he loves us."
SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Latest from 9NEWS