Panthers’ Teppers, Bozemans feed more than 1,200 kids at event

A pair of Carolina Panthers power couples — and their charitable foundations — teamed up Monday to feed more than 1,200 under-served children from Second Harvest Food Bank’s Kids Café Sites.

Panthers center Bradley Bozeman and his wife, Nikki, partnered with team owner David Tepper and his wife, Nicole, to host the “Bozeman’s Thanksgiving Bash” at Topgolf Charlotte Southwest. The Bradley and Nikki Bozeman Foundation and the David and Nicole Tepper Foundation provided free entertainment, activities and meals for children from five counties across the Carolinas.

“Our biggest mission is off the field,” Bradley Bozeman said Monday. “We want to help any way we can. Even if it’s just one kid — we want to help any way we can. So, that’s our biggest mission.

“We know we can’t do that without football, so football is obviously a priority, but everything we can do in the community, with our off-time, with our downtime, we try to take the steps to do that.”

The event was previously hosted by former NFL MVP quarterback Cam Newton and was called “Cam’s Thanksgiving Jam.” The annual charity outing was last hosted in Charlotte in November 2019 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Newton was released by the Panthers in 2020 and signed with the New England Patriots. He later returned to the Panthers for a brief mid-season run in 2021.

But with Newton no longer serving as a fixture of the franchise after the pandemic, Nicole Tepper was looking to bring the event back. She eventually discussed the event with the Bozemans, who were looking for an event to help serve those dealing with food insecurity.

“We were told the story about it, and we said ‘Absolutely, we’re onboard, we want to do it,’ and it has not disappointed,” Bradley Bozeman said. “David and Nicole Tepper have been amazing in this process. And Nikki has done an amazing job also, planning and making sure everything goes in line and is straight, and it just been such a blessing to host this event.”

Panthers players — including quarterback Bryce Young, right tackle Taylor Moton, left guard Chandler Zavala and defensive lineman Nick Thurman — were also in attendance.

Along with 80 volunteers — including several from the locally based Panthers fan union, the Roaring Riot — the players served meals to the children with the Teppers and the Bozemans.

“I think on and off the field is important, so to see (the players) bond together, to give back to the community — it all kind of is who we are,” Nicole Tepper said. “It makes me really happy, and I think it’s good for them to be out of the locker room and in the community and have this time together.”

Along with receiving dinner at the event, guests were also given second Thanksgiving meals for later in week, which were provided by Harris Teeter.

The Kids Café program partners with non-profit agencies, such as YWCA and Boys and Girls Clubs, to provide meals and snacks for under-served children. Both the Bozeman Foundation and the Tepper Foundation work with Second Harvest throughout the year. The focus for their work is on food insecurity initiatives, particularly with area youth.

Monday’s event was part of all three organizations’ collective efforts to help combat hunger in the community.

“I think it’s just seeing where you can serve,” Nikki Bozeman said. “We started in anti-bullying and we kind of morphed into food insecurity when COVID started. And you can see all these kids out here, when we were serving the meals, they’re like, ‘We’re starving, we’re so excited to eat dinner, we’re so excited to take these meals home to our families.’

“It’s a need — it’s a huge need, and we’re able to have that void filled for them. So, I think that’s such a great key, to see what the need is in the community, and then just take that step forward and that action to really help these kids.”

Mike Kaye covers the Carolina Panthers for The Charlotte Observer. Kaye previously covered the entire NFL for Pro Football Network, the Philadelphia Eagles for NJ Advance Media and the Jacksonville Jaguars for First Coast News. He is a graduate of the University of North Florida.

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