Chicago Bears OG Rashaad Coward joins Athletes for Charity to give gifts to East Chicago elementary school students

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. (WLS) -- Christmas came just a little bit early for student at Lincoln Elementary in East Chicago, Indiana, as they were given day of gifts.

"Our kids don't come from backgrounds that they have a lot of things," said Nancy Sharp, Lincoln Elementary principal. "This is a one way to bring in support and activities that they normally do not have."

The gifts came courtesy of Athletes for Charity, a group which helps provides extra learning experiences for children in challenged neighborhoods.

"Oh we have had things from CPR classes, local professors from IIT Tech have come in to do computer coding, engineering," said Assistant Principal Linda Padilla.

Kindergarteners got to choose their very own books, some for the first time ever.

Older students got Lego kits as a reward for doing well in their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects. Some had never seen Legos.

"I like math," said 10-year-old Tarianna Franklin. "It's pretty easy and I like numbers."

"I want to be a computer programmer for NASA," said 10-year-old Layleh Butler.

That's just what Bears offensive guard Rashaad Coward was hoping to hear. He's a part of Athletes for Charity and he came bearing the gifts.

"I got nominated for the NFL PA and I got $10,000 so I was like 'give it to the kids and let them help with anything they need, computers, books even Legos,'" Coward said.

"As a former science teacher, many of our students, by the time they get to high school, they are behind in terms of STEM careers and STEM awareness," said Dee-Etta Wright, East Chicago Superintendent. "This program allows a students to become engaged and aware of it by an early age."

Students like Prince Reaves, who already loves coding.

"It's pretty simple," the 10-year-old said.

This is the first time Athletes for Charity has helped a school in the Chicago area. The program has been highly successful in other cities, like Detroit.

They are hoping to expand to even more local schools in the future, just to let students learn that STEM subjects can be fun.
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.