April 08, 2005

Chargers reward Raider-Hater Readers

By J.D. Hawk

San Diego Chargers’ Roman Oben and Ben Leber visited two Chula Vista elementary schools on April 6 as a reward for students’ efforts in the Give-A-Book drive.

“I wanted to come out here and say Thanks,’” linebacker Leber said to Hilltop elementary school at an outdoor assembly Wednesday. “You guys gave books to all the youth that needed it, and it’s very commendable. You should be very proud of yourselves.”

Chargers’ Ben Leber with (left to right) 1st grade Teacher Ms. Nees, first grader Annemarie, and Hilltop School Principal Ms. Michelle Beauchamp

Chula Vista Hills won the book-donating contest with 6,882 books contributed for underprivileged kids, followed by Hilltop elementary school with 5,401.

After telling the Hilltop students how much literacy and reading books meant to his success in life, the 6-foot-4-inch offensive tackle Oben wowed the wee-high tikes by admitting he weighed over 300 lbs. Then, as if adding a spike to his speech, he revealed that he had won a Super Bowl in the past — while playing with Tampa Bay Buccaneers— against the much-hated Oakland Raiders.

Screams, laughter and applause followed.

It seems that if the free pizza and ice cream waiting in the wings weren’t enough, the concept of defeating San Diego’s ultimate anti-heroes was simply overwhelming.

Chula Vista Mayor Steve Padilla strategically began the book donation drive last year around the holidays, he said, because he thought people would be more in a giving mood. Padilla figured that if they were lucky, 5,000 books could be generated for less fortunate children. But even Padilla was shocked when between the 40 schools that participated and local sponsors such as Papa Johns Pizza, banks and grocery stores, over 100,000 books were tallied. “We are very excited,” Padilla said. “The school district has been wonderful, the sponsors were wonderful, the kids were wonderful — the kids really came through.”

The mass of books will go to places like the YMCA , The Boys and Girls Club, the Polinsky Center and Casas Seguras

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