The Big Whit 77 Foundation spread holiday cheer and gave back to local families in a big way on Thursday in Monroe.
The local organization that promotes the development of young leaders and supports many causes through its charitable efforts held a party for 10 local families from Ouachita and Lincoln parishes on Thursday at Chuck E. Cheese.
As the numerous children ran around to play their favorite games with numerous local athletes from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and Louisiana Tech University, the adults either joined in the play or sat back and enjoyed pizza and soft drinks in a time of fellowship.
“For us, it is a blessing to be a part of things like this and just the great things Andrew (Whitworth) and Melissa (Whitworth) want to do in our community,” Bug Whit 77 President Rick Guillot said. “Events like this are what we want to put our energy into to give back.”
The organization was started by former West Monroe High School and LSU offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth and his wife, Melissa. Andrew is a former West Monroe High School and LSU offensive lineman now part of the Cincinnati Bengals organization. Melissa is a former Miss Louisiana winner.
Two former “Whit’s Warriors” scholarship recipients among those there to give back were current ULM baseball player Will Daniels and Louisiana Tech defensive back Michael Mims.
Also among those mingling with the children on Thursday was Louisiana Tech wide recover Trent Taylor.
“It is a big deal to me just to be able to make a small impact on these kids’ lives,” Taylor said. “I know this means a lot to them and I am just glad to be a part of it.”
Perhaps the biggest smiles came when the families were each surprised with $500 gift certificate to nearby Toys R Us.
“It is amazing,” Kelli Herzog said. “We are so thankful for everything they are doing.”
Herzog and her family were one of the families chosen for the event.
Herzog and her husband Nick attended with their three children Cayden, Jantz and Colin.
Guillot said the evening would not have been possible without the partnership with the local Merrill Lynch Wealth Management group lead by Kenny Guillot, Randy Kirby, James Breaux and Jamie Orton.