A big man with a big heart

When you think of football players some of the first things that come to mind are big, intimidating men. Other things can be said for Joe Eppele, the offensive lineman for the Toronto Argonauts. Eppele is the founder of Big Joe’s Little Giants – a charity organization under the umbrella of Scribble Me Silly. Big Joe’s Little Giants works with families from different local shelters for abused women and children.

Eppele didn’t always know what he wanted to do in the community, just that he wanted to help. While Eppele was doing a shore cleanup with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) he saw there was a group of kids also participating.

“I found out that they were there to help out with the shoreline clean up that day because they have tremendous resources when it comes to helping women get back out in the community helping them find new jobs and find new housing and things like that,” Eppele said, “but they didn’t have a lot of funding when it came to going out and doing activities, so they try and take advantage of every opportunity they have to get the kids out in the community and do fun events,”

Knowing that they couldn’t afford to do special things with the kids Eppele decided to help and started by setting it up so they could go to a football game. The football game moved to a night out bowling and it slowly progressed over the years.

This October Big Joe’s Little Giants held its annual pumpkin carving party for the kids. The whole day was filled with activities from making a dream board where all of the kids wrote their dreams down, to pumpkin carving and getting candy afterwards. The event was “a very candid environment” for the kids and the volunteers. This allowed the barriers the children put up to be slowly broken down seeing not all men were scary and bad.

“I remember doing it when I was younger and a lot of these kids haven’t had opportunities to carve pumpkins before and so its things that most people take for granted and these children haven’t had opportunities to take part in,” Eppele said.

A lot of people wouldn’t think of something so small as carving a pumpkin would make a difference, but while they were working with the kids they started to open up and get more comfortable.

At the end of the day to “bring everything full circle” something else special happened for the kids. To follow with tradition everyone got to release a rock dove. The tradition was to kiss the rock dove tell it your wish and let it go. There were 24 doves released at the end of the day.

“Its something a lot of people don’t get the chance to do, … to make these kids feel special, have them have a new experience, especially one that most people wouldn’t experience. It will really help them feel special,” Eppele said.

These events don’t happen very often, there is an Easter Egg Hunt, the Pumpkin Carving Party, a Christmas Party and other small events throughout the year like Valentine’s Day crafts but they still make a big impact.

“I have had some messages from a mother where she said it helped her children, but it also helped her a lot because she had been through so much problems with men in her life that just being around and seeing men interacting with the children with positive intentions, it really helped her change her perspective on everything as well,” Eppele said.

Knowing that his charity makes a difference in a large group of peoples lives shows how much it is worthwhile to do it. Eppele may be a big intimidating man on the field but not when it comes to kids and making a difference in their lives.

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