A theater full of fans of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies wanted to be among the first to see how the series would end. What should have been a great night in Aurora, Colorado quickly turned to tragedy when an armed gunman entered the theater through the back door and began shooting. In total, twelve people were killed and 58 more were injured in this senseless act of violence.
Within days, NFL players raced to the sides of the victims to provide support, monetary relief, and a distraction from the reality of the tragedy.
On Sunday, six Denver Broncos players visited with some of the victims at the Medical Center of Aurora. Ryan Clady, Eric Decker, Ben Garland, Chris Kuper, Joe Mays, and Jacob Tamme all visited with the patients, listened to their stories about the horrifying night, and helped some of them smile for the first time since the shots rang out. Former Bronco Brian Dawkins also joined the players at the the hospital.
“We just wanted to come out show support and to be able to crack a smile with these guys — it’s good to see that they’re making progress,” Decker said. “I think they’re excited to get out of here, but it’s just good to see a smile on their face.”
Earlier in the day, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning called four of the victims in their hospital rooms on the telephone in an attempt to lift their spirits.
“We felt this was the least we could do to help them get through this tragic event,” Mays said. “We came out of there with just a different mindset on life as well. They were still able to smile and laugh and have people in their corner and by their side. Just to see that couldn’t help but smile a smile on our faces and make us think about our lives and being with our families.”
On Monday, a group of Broncos lead by Elvis Dumervil visited the Swedish Medical Center to meet with more victims of the tragedy in Aurora.
Dumervil, Ben Garland, Chris Gronkowski, Kuper, Tamme, Demaryius Thomas, and Wesley Woodyard visited with the staff that was working when the victims of the shooting were brought to the hospital and two of the victims.
“They’re strong,” Dumervil said. “It’s a good sign. Nobody had their head down. They’re keeping the fight. That’s encouraging. The positive energy, the vibe was great.”
Today, news broke that Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith will give $100,000 to the City of Aurora. The city will distribute the money to the victims in an attempt to offset their rising medical expenses.
“As a father and husband I cannot imagine the pain and suffering the victims are going through,” Smith said in a statement distributed by his agent. “My family’s hearts and prayers are extended to theirs, and I hope this contribution might assist in paying some of the medical bills that will help allow these families to move forward in this tragic circumstance.”
“Hopefully this helps a little bit,” Smith said. “From one NFL city to another, God bless.”
Recent headlines of players having trouble off the field seem to be dominating the media in the weeks leading up to training camp. Steve Smith and the group of Broncos players lead by Peyton Manning and Elvis Dumervil have chosen to step up and use the power that playing in the NFL provides to assist the victims of this tragedy in a way that almost no one else can. Brian Dawkins is retired from the league but the leadership qualities he learned on the field were front and center when he walked into the hospital on Sunday to make a difference in the victims lives.
Dumervil is one of the players who has had some recent trouble off the field. Most of the coverage of Dumervil at the beginning of Broncos camp will focus on that trouble. Even Steve Smith has been criticized in the past for being selfish or a me-first player on the field. Dumervil and Smith proved this week that despite having flaws (as all humans d0) NFL players are always an arms length away when trouble hits their community, or in the case of Smith and Aurora, Colorado, a community thousands of miles away from where they play their home games.
For more information on the Broncos aiding the victims of this terrible tragedy go to: http://www.denverbroncos.com.