Representing his "Family of 3" foundation, quarterback Robert Griffin III made a visit to TAPS in Arlington, Va., Monday to surprise and present a check to a military family in need.
Maybe there was a little confusion as to why several video camera teams, positioning themselves for a good view of the front door, were all grouped together in the front lobby of TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) Monday afternoon.
But the Deck family, who also huddled together on a couch, was just glad to have some media outlets present to share their gratitude for one of their favorite people.
They were planning to send Robert Griffin III a video message to thank him and his family for their support over the last several months. That was what they were told, at least.
Instead, just a few minutes later, they were thanking, and re-thanking, the Redskins quarterback in person.
Griffin III, along with his wife, Rebecca, and daughter, Reese, surprised Crystal Deck and her three children, Lexi, Reece and Sean, reconnecting with a family that has gone through various obstacles since 2003, when their missing part, Navy PO Michael Johnson Jr., died in Iraq.
There on behalf of his "Family Of 3" foundation, Griffin III spent a few minutes greeting everyone before presenting them a check for $7,500 in front of his own family and other TAPS members, further strengthening his relationship with the organization.
"What we always set out to do is not just give them money, but give them a plan with that money," Griffin III said. "So this money will be used in a strategic way to help give them some relief for now. And while they have that relief, we're going to teach them how to make sure that relief lasts for a long time – not only us but TAPS."
Representing his "Family of 3" foundation, quarterback Robert Griffin III made a visit to TAPS in Arlington, Virginia Monday to surprise and present a check to a military family in need.
The Deck family joined TAPS in 2009 after Lexi, 14, began struggling with the loss of her father, exhibiting signs of anxiety that diminished her usually bubbly spirit.
At the same time, Reece, 17, was dealing with his own trauma after his bones had become severely deficient, forcing him, a three-sport athlete, to become bed-ridden.
Before Reece's 15th surgery, Griffin III sent Reece, a big sports fan, some of his signature camouflage socks in the mail. Crystal took a picture of them and Griffin III tweeted out the photo, later asking TAPS what he could do to help the family. Shortly after, he visited the Decks at their home and spent a few hours with them on a similar surprise visit.
There, he learned Lexi was a singer, and after hearing her belt out a Bruno Mars cover he invited her to perform the national anthem at his football camp in June. The night was particularly special, the culmination of a friendship between an athlete and two teenagers that needed to feel his presence.
"He just provides support to her," Crystal said. "After the Friday Night Lights camp, there was a picture of them hugging. When she saw it later, she was like, 'I feel like that's what would happen if I had a dad.'"
"Whenever she looks at me, I definitely see that she looks at me differently than just a normal NFL player," Griffin III said. "She sang the National Anthem for maybe ten seconds, put the mic down and walked away. She didn't run, didn't cry, she got overly excited, too nervous, and needed someone to be up there with her to help her sing. We brought her back at the end, I stood there next to her, and she sang it beautifully. It's special to know that you have that kind of impact on people, that when they see you, they don't just see the football player or the man, they see something they want to be a part of. That makes you feel great."
Redskins QB Robert Griffin III hosted local students at his 2nd annual Friday Night Lights Football Camp with players and coaches in Washington D.C. on Friday, June 5, 2015.
Griffin III and the Deck family spent the rest of the afternoon giving interviews and discussing their importance to each other, describing a partnership that continues to grow and expand, as evidenced Monday.
"Having Robert involved with TAPS has absolutely changed the way America views the families of the fallen," said Bonnie Carroll, TAPS President and Founder. "He recognizes service and sacrifice and he honors the families in a very personal way. He's connected it now with Major League sports so teams all over the country are now following suit and it's really been such a blessing to those who have paid the ultimate price for this nation's freedom."
"We had a vision for the foundation and it's taken off and it's been amazing who we've been able to help, how we've been able to help," Griffin III said.
And just like the foundation's plan to financially strategize with the Decks and check in on them frequently, TAPS remains committed to everyone that walks through its doors, following their journey forever, in both the monumental and miniscule moments of their lives.
"TAPS supports us in everything," Crystal said. "I want to share my life with them – 'Here's a recipe,' or 'My kids got good grades.' I want to tell them everything that happens in our life. So it's not just an organization that we are part of, it's the family. For Robert to come out and support TAPS, in a way, he's supporting our family. That can enable to them to bring to other families what they bring to us."