NASHVILLE – Titans safety Kevin Byard made his way through the mayhem known as the "Titan Up for Tots" Baby Shower on Monday.
Each year the event year buzzes with activity as players, coaches, staff and cheerleaders assemble 3,500 diaper bags full of necessities, such as diapers, wipes, onesies and blankets, which will be provided to new mothers in the community. The action under the tent at Saint Thomas Sports Park looks like Interstate 24 at rush hour.
But this year it was extra special for Byard, whose wife is due to deliver the couple's first child on September 18.
"I honestly have been picking up the pink bags, honoring my daughter a little bit," Byard said during a break in the action. "It is an awesome event. I love doing it. And honestly, it is like a team-building event. We just came off the practice field talking trash, the defense and the offense. And now all the guys work together as a team to do this, for a good cause, for mothers who need these things."
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel, General Manager Jon Robinson and all of the team's players took part in the event, from quarterback Marcus Mariota to tight end Delanie Walker to defensive lineman Jurrell Casey to the team's rookies. They joined United Way of Metropolitan Nashville leadership under a tent adjacent to the practice fields.
Each position group had a different station, with different assignments.
"This is year five," said Tina Tuggle, Titans Senior Director of Community Relations. "This is special this year because we are packing 3,500 bags, which makes a total of 10,000 over five years.
"One of the things I am most proud of is when we are out in the community and we actually see kids on the onesies, or parents with the bags. So we know we are making an impact. And just hearing the feedback, like the information that we give them that has all the resources for the United Way is also extremely beneficial, so we are making a difference in that way as well."
Tuggle said the Titans want to ease the burden for new mothers by providing the items for a new baby. Diapers are estimated to cost up to $1,000 per year, per child, and because diapers are not eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits, many parents often have to re-use disposable diapers, which jeopardizes a baby's health, per a release for the event. Titan Up for Tots will provide new mothers with helpful items and resources to give their babies a healthy start to life.
Following the event, the bags assembled will be delivered to United Way Family Resource Centers and partner agencies that work with underserved families throughout the community. Since Titan Up for Tots began in 2015, the Tennessee Titans and United Way have helped more than 8,500 mothers in need.
"This is a blessing to be a part of this," said Casey, who has an eight-month-old son. "It is different for you – you go out there crashing heads (in practice), going at it on the field, getting prepared for the season. And then you come in here … and do something that is helpful for the community.
"I think the Titans organization does a great job of doing that, giving back and making sure everyone participates. And I believe we always have 100 percent participation during this event, so it is a blessing."
The Titans joined forces with United Way of Metro Nashville to host the fifth annual Titan Up for Tots Community Baby Shower, packing 3,500 diaper bags full of baby items to distribute to at-risk mothers served by United Way's Family Resource Centers and their partner agencies. (Photos: Donald Page)