BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - An NFL player from Baton Rouge made the holidays a little happier for several Christmas shoppers in the capital area.
Ronald Leary, a Southern University Lab graduate who is now an offensive lineman for the Denver Broncos, teamed up with Pay Away the Layaway, a national non-profit that secretly pays off balances during the holidays.
Leary wasn’t able to surprise the shoppers himself, so his mother stepped in to represent the Ron Leary Reach Foundation during this year’s giveaway at Burlington Coat Factory.
The store called dozens of families who had items on layaway, inviting them to the store for a special giveaway event, and only telling them that they would be entered in a contest to possibly have their balances paid off.
“I know you guys were invited here concerning your layaways,” said Iris Leary, Ronald Leary’s mom before making the surprise announcement. "Everybody who was called, their layaway was already paid.”
Leary paid the balances in full for 30 families, including Marrissa Nelson, who had baby clothes on layaway for her 4-month-old son, Michael.
“I’m kind of still freaking out right now. I’m really excited. I appreciate it and am very thankful,” said Nelson. “I didn’t expect this at all.”
Tiffany McCray also has a newborn at home, as well as a toddler. She also put items on layaway for her tiny tots, including a border to keep her baby safe in her crib.
“I’m lost of words and very grateful,” said McCray.
Leary says he created the Ron Leary Reach Foundation so he can give back to his hometown.
“That’s my way of giving back to the city that helped me out so much. It’s little events like this, just to be able to put a smile on people’s faces during the holidays,” said Leary.
This is the second year the Ron Leary Reach Foundation teamed up with Pay Away the Layaway to clear balances for shoppers at Burlington Coat Factory in Baton Rouge.
Leary has words of encouragement for anyone having a hard time during the holiday season.
“Trials are given to us to test our faith and test our strength. Nothing is ever too big to overcome, regardless of the situation of your upbringing," he said. “Every day is a new day to start over to be a better person to yourself, a better person to your family. Don’t ever think it’s too late."