In tune with the giving spirit of the holidays, Rams Defensive Back BLAKE COUNTESS has quickly become an integral part of an LAPD holiday tradition in the Watts region.
For the second consecutive year, Countess and Safety John Johnson III joined LAPD officers for their annual 'Santa Sleigh Ride' through the neighborhoods of Watts to spread some holiday cheer and distribute presents to local youth.
While the program was designed to serve an historically-underprivileged community of South Los Angeles, the initiative has also provided an opportunity for LAPD officers to build relationships with community residents and bridge gaps in communication that might have hindered those relationships in years past.
With knowledge of the program's impact on the Watts community and the anticipation the sleigh ride generates each year, Countess decided to commit himself in advance to participating again this year.
"It was such a great time. I'll be first in line and next up to do it again next year," said Countess after his first ride through the Watts community in December of 2017.
The third-year defensive back certainly stayed true to his word. As the Rams geared up for their December playoff push, Countess wanted to make sure he and some of his teammates could take the time out of their busy schedules to continue playing a role in the tradition that LAPD officers have thoughtfully created.
"Just being able to give back to the community means a lot to my teammates and I," said Countess. "This was my second year in a row doing this. Last year I had so much fun and after the event, I told the officers that I wanted to personally come down here and do it again this year."
What began as a small-scale holiday program with a handful of volunteers stuffing stockings has now become a local 5-day-a-week holiday campaign that's been embraced by the entire community. Over the years, the initiative has begun to receive increasing public support and attention including the help of Rams players, cheerleaders, Rampage and staff.
"The vibe on the sleigh ride is very special," said Countess. "We have the music going and the jingle bells… I'll always make time to ride around the neighborhood and pass out gifts to those who are less fortunate, or kids that may not be getting what they're hoping for Christmas. Especially this time of year, giving back means so much and to see the smiles on the kid's faces and to make their days light up is what's most important to me."
For more information about the Rams' community outreach efforts, please visit www.therams.com/community.