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Shiloh House kids go on a holiday shopping spree with Broncos defensive end

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By Deborah Swearingen

With DeMarcus Walker leading the way and a list in hand, a dozen or so kids from Shiloh House rushed the toy aisles at the Target near Southwest Plaza on Dec. 4.  

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Toy shopping at Target is a holiday tradition for Shiloh House, but this year was particularly special. The day after Thanksgiving, a clinical building at the organization’s South Jeffco location caught fire. Shiloh House, which is located in the 6000 block of West Coal Mine Avenue, offers nurturing, therapeutic and educational services to empower youth and families to overcome the impact of abuse, neglect and trauma.

That’s a large part of why Walker, a defensive end for the Denver Broncos football team, wanted to do something for the kids.

“Really, it was so heartbreaking right after Thanksgiving to have something so traumatic happen,” said Anna Miller, administrative officer at Shiloh House. “So to have something positive, not only for the kids but for our staff and our community, shows we’re fighters. And we’re just going to keep going. We’ll make good out of bad.”

The fire may have inspired Walker to act, but the shopping spree was even more personal than that.

“I was one of those kids in their position who was less fortunate,” he said. “ … I wish my mom was here. I was one of those kids that went to toy giveaways and brought those back, opened those for Christmas.”

Regardless, it’s always fun to be a kid again. Walker walked from aisle to aisle with the group, tossing games, puzzles and sports equipment into the cart.

“We actually play Connect 4 in the locker room,” Walker said, while grabbing a Connect 4 box off the shelf.

Before the shopping spree concluded, Walker even picked up a Rubik’s cube for himself.

“I’ve never solved one out on my own,” he said, smiling.

Mostly, though, the event was meant to bring smiles and create memories. After shopping, Walker stayed for a Qdoba lunch and played games and signed autographs for the Shiloh House kids.  

“It means everything to the kids. They’ve gone through quite a bit of trauma and tragedy, some of them, in their lives,” Miller said. “And to have a professional athlete come out and spend time with them, sign autographs, even just ask them how their day is, it really gives them hope for the future.”

This was certainly evident as most of the group decked out in the Broncos’ signature orange and navy. They cheered and clapped as Walker entered the room and held a hand-painted sign welcoming him. Before Walker arrived at Target, Matthew, a Shiloh House resident, said he planned to challenge the professional football player to a paper airplane throwing contest. He even wrote a letter for Walker.

“Thanks for being here (and) supporting me at Shiloh House. I’ve been kinda lonely here, and you guys got my spirits up for this week,” the letter read. “ … All of you inspire me and are my heroes.”