The Falcons joined Big Bethel AME Church in welcoming members and youth from Mother Emanuel AME to Atlanta.
With XFINITY Training Camp about to begin, Wednesday night was the last chance for players to enjoy the comforts of home for several weeks. While most used this time to unwind, Matt Bryant, one of the more active Falcons in the community, spent it giving back.
"It's kind of my last chance (before the season) to do something good for somebody else," he said.
Bryant offered his last free evening before camp to families from TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), a national non-profit that provides care for those who lost loved ones serving in the armed forces. The veteran kicker gave his guests more than five hours at World of Coke and the Georgia Aquarium, where everyone was treated to dinner, a VIP tour and an hour of free access after the building closed to the public.
"The reason why we're here, the reason why we're doing this is an unfortunate situation for these families," said Bryant. "I'm big on doing as many positive things I can for kids. It's well worth it to put a smile on the kids' faces. And in return you put a smile on the moms' faces because they see their kids having a good time. It's a win-win for everybody."
Bonnie Carroll, who lost her husband in an Army aviation accident, founded TAPS in 1994. It presently cares for roughly 50,000 grieving families by upholding its four core services: A 24-hour help line that's been answered continuously since 1994; peer support; a community-based resource program; and a casework team, which steps in and takes care of unnecessary red tape.
Fundraising is what allows TAPS to provide so many important resources (support can be given here), and utilizing high-profile figures like Bryant creates invaluable exposure for the network.
"Getting the money is great, and we can't do the programs without it, but to have someone like Matt acknowledge our families and remember them —that means everything," said Patti Gross, who works for TAPS and lost her husband in 2010. "Because it's so easy to feel forgotten. And to have someone of Matt's stature and an organization like the Falcons, it means the world."
One of the moms in attendance was Meka Durham-Honer, who recently moved to Georgia to begin a new chapter with her kids, Caleb and Christian, and fiancé. She joined TAPS in 2008 shortly after her husband — a former football player and Logistics Readiness Officer in the Air Force — passed away, and knew this event would be perfect for her family.
"It means a lot to my children because my oldest son is 14, and my husband died when he was seven. My youngest boy was 16 months. They both play football," said Durham-Honer. "To know there is someone who's interested in them as individuals, and someone who shows he appreciates the sacrifice their father made — that means the world to both of them."