KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Christmas came early at Maple Park Middle School in the North Kansas City School District.

Students who have special needs scored a visit from Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman, who happens to be Lolia Riley’s favorite player.

“When I saw him outside my classroom door I jumped up and ran and gave him a handshake,” Riley said. “It was the best thing ever. My favorite day of school is today. I’ve always wanted to meet him and give him a handshake and I finally got to.”

Hardman said beyond football, working with kids who have special needs is his passion.

They threw the football and shot hoops. On Monday, they proved that teamwork makes the dream work.

Hardman’s been bringing this positive energy and sound advice to youth with special needs for the last ten years.

“He inspired me to keep pushing on and go after my dreams even if I was told I couldn’t do something,” Riley said.

“I think you know they deal with things every day,” Hardman said. “And just for them to see something different, something fun, something energetic, I think it helps them
give them energy, get through the day.”

Students weren’t the only ones in for a surprise at Maple Park Middle School. Hardman put on his Santa hat and delivered these lunchbox backpacks to staff.

“Happy holidays,” Hardman said.

He helped the principal hand out gifts to each staff member.

“Christmas is here,” Hardmans said. “It’s the week of giving.”

Christmas also came early for the Chiefs. Sunday’s win over the Houston Texans secured the team’s seventh straight division title.

“Even though I wasn’t playing it’s still fun to be a part of that, four years straight, seven years for the team in total,” Hardman said. “So, that’s good. We’ve still got some games to play and got a lot more football.”

“I was kind of a little nervous that he might not come today because of the big win, but nope, he said he wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Assistant Principal Stacie Syler said.

Chiefs play at Arrowhead in a Christmas Eve game this Saturday at noon.