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Ashley stores, Jacksonville Jaguars team up to help kids

 Jacksonville Jaguar players including Cameron Bradfield, left, and Will Rackley meet with the kids participating in “A Hope to Dream.”Jacksonville Jaguar players including Cameron Bradfield, left, and Will Rackley meet with the kids participating in “A Hope to Dream.”

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Fifty children squealed in excitement during the inaugural Ashley Furniture HomeStores "A Hope to Dream" slumber party here after learning that they would receive their own Ashley Sleep mattress sets.

Many had never had beds of their own before.

The slumber party was sponsored by Ashley Furniture HomeStores in partnership with the National Football League's Jacksonville Jaguars under the A Hope to Dream campaign, an Ashley program that provides free mattress sets to children in need. The program is in 230 HomeStores nationally and recently surpassed 5,000 donated beds.

On Aug. 2, Jacksonville storeowner Howard Fineman and the new Jaguars head coach, Gus Bradley, and his wife, Michaela, hosted the slumber party for the 50 kids at EverBank Field, the home of the Jaguars.

"I am overwhelmed by Gus and Michaela Bradley's personal heartfelt commitment to A Hope to Dream," said Fineman. "Coach Bradley is here to build a winning NFL football team - but he and his wife have already done so much more. Their personal investment in these children will make our community a better one and stronger one for decades to come. That is a truly winning legacy."

The evening kicked off with a dance party with the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars Cheerleaders and team members, and culminated with the announcement about the free mattresses. Excited children ran into a room of 50 beds, complete with gift bags and monogrammed sleeping bags.

 Image of Howard FinemanHoward Fineman

"The excitement level of 50 kids getting their first beds - and being totally surprised by the news - was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of those attending," said Fineman. "Words cannot express the joy that these children were experiencing."

Janice Genwright, a grandmother of three, said her grandchildren slept on air mattresses for four years and only slept on real mattresses when they came to visit her.

"It's all over. It's all over. I just can't tell you how excited we are," said Genwright. "Now they're overwhelmed with just having pillows because it's so different than lying on a pallet on the floor with no pillow. It's just like a Christmas day for us."

Fineman said this type of unveiling in partnership with an NFL team had never been done before. The slumber party occurred the night before the first scrimmage game of the season for the Jaguars. Other HomeStore team members were invited to join the celebrations the following morning to congratulate the children and prepare the beds for delivery.

"It doesn't take a whole lot to be good to others," said Michaela Bradley. "To put a smile on a kid's face is priceless."

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