EAST HANOVER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Santa came early for some children in the Tri-state area Monday and it was all thanks to a star on the New York Jets.

Linebacker Brandon Copeland gathered up some of his teammates to surprise 20 kids from the Mott Haven Academy in the South Bronx and 20 high school students from Newark with a pizza party.

Copeland then revealed an even bigger surprise – a shopping spree at Target in East Hanover.

After dinner and chatting with some of their favorite players, each student received a $200 gift card to buy Christmas presents for themselves and their families.

A lot of the students at the event were dealing with tough situations at home. Some were even heading back to local shelters. So to enjoy the night out with their friends and role models – and also buy something for their loved ones – meant everything.

“Candles for my mom, CDs for my mom and my sister,” one student showed CBS2’s Jessica Layton.

“They help me, so I’m gonna help them. Most of the stuff my mom can’t get my little brother, so I’m going to get it for them,” one high school student added.

“Now it’s the holiday season so we’re trying to take kids that deserve a helping hand and take them out and just bless them for the holidays,” Copeland said.

“Hopefully they enjoy it. The goal for us, years from now, is that one of these kids is doing that for another group of people. Another group of kids.”

The special shopping spree was all part of Copeland’s foundation “Beyond the Basics.”


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