Saundra Watts was getting her makeup done in the Dulles 28 Centre in Sterling on Tuesday, killing time while her dog was groomed at Petco, when her 10-year-old grandson, Jaden, came running into the store.
Watts exchanged a skeptical look with the woman applying her makeup.
“She did not believe me,” said Jaden, who had wandered into a GameStop next door. “She thought it was some person who was joking with me or something.”
Actually, Saundra, an advocate for abused and neglected children, was thinking much worse.
“The first thing I’m thinking is there’s some pedophile trying to buy my grandson an Xbox,” she said. “So I’m like, I’m going to bust up in there and bust his bubble.”
When they entered GameStop, Jaden introduced Saundra to the two men in shorts and T-shirts who had made the generous offer: Washington Redskins running backs Keith Marshall and Rob Kelley.
“Is it okay if we buy your son an Xbox?” Marshall asked Saundra, who was flattered Marshall thought she was Jaden’s mom. “I was like, ‘Really?’ Now mind you, I didn’t know they were Redskins, and neither did Jaden.”
Jaden said Marshall and Kelley had complimented him on his Colin Kaepernick 49ers jersey when he walked into the video game store to inquire about the price of the Xbox One. Kelley said Marshall overheard Jaden mention something about saving up to buy the video game console and Marshall asked his teammate if he was interested in pitching in to buy it for him.
“I was cool with it,” Kelley said. “I wish someone would’ve done something like that for me when I was growing up. His family is probably able to do whatever they want, but everybody is not able to have the stuff that we have the luxury of having. … To make an impact on somebody, I have no problem with it.”
Saundra said she was shocked when Marshall told her he and Kelley played for the Redskins. While Kelley took a phone call, she and Jaden chatted with Marshall, who is on injured reserve for the second consecutive season after tearing his patella tendon during training camp, about his rehab and growing up in North Carolina. Jaden told Marshall he was a Cowboys fan, just like his dad, and a 49ers fan because of Kaepernick, who was released in March and remains out of a job.
“I liked how he wasn’t afraid to show what he thought,” Jaden, who is African American, said in a phone interview Thursday of Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality last season. “He risked getting fired, which was a big thing. I wouldn’t even do that, but he did, and I really like him for standing out. I don’t know if people agree with it, but he just doesn’t care what people say and that’s inspired me and probably inspired other people.”
Before everyone parted ways, they took a photo, exchanged hugs and even phone numbers. Saundra told Marshall and Kelley, who also bought Jaden a copy of “NBA 2K18,” to stay humble and true to themselves. Marshall told Jaden to do the same, even when it came to his Cowboys fandom.
“Jaden flew on cloud nine to the car,” Saundra said. “The next morning, he woke up and looked at me and said, ‘Nana, I had a dream that I was in a GameStop and two Redskins players bought me an Xbox.’ I said, ‘That wasn’t a dream, you dodo, that really happened.’ It was un-be-lievable. Unbelievable. He’s just such a good kid and it was just such a blessing. It was just so wonderful, the experience of a lifetime.”
“I will never forget that,” Jaden said.
Joey Snapp, a Winchester man who witnessed Marshall and Kelley’s random act of kindness, posted about it on Facebook. Snapp tweeted his appreciation at Marshall and Kelley, neither of whom mentioned their generous act on social media.
“The family wanted a picture that they could have, so they took one, but we didn’t post anything,” said Kelley, who was at GameStop in search of “Midnight Club II,” which was released in 2003. “Stuff like that is done from the heart. That was something that we just did and it ain’t gotta be broadcasted. … Doing that, it felt so good just knowing that I didn’t have no ties to that kid, I didn’t have to do that. It felt good.”
Master Tesfatsion contributed to this report.