CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - It's an annual tradition in Charlotte. The Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton travels the area the week before Christmas to spread some serious holiday cheer.
It's called 'Santa Cam's Surprise Sleigh', and this year four area schools and food banks got a treat they weren't expecting.
Newton talked one-on-one with WBTV, "I look forward to it. To give back to the community, to be able to talk to everybody, and kind of get in a good Christmas spirit."
WBTV was the only TV station invited to cover the event, which was escorted by a CMPD motorcade. Starting at 2 p.m., the convoy made its way to four different locations, where unsuspected guests were surprised not only with Newton, but also generous donations from the Cam Newton Foundation and Food Lion.
Sedgefield Middle School: Newton gave 105 staff and teachers $150 Visa gift cards and visited with students.
Second Harvest Food Bank: Newton surprised 200 seniors who thought they were just having a holiday lunch. He gave the food bank a $25,000 donation.
Second Harvest's mobile food bank at Devonshire Elementary: Newton gave another $25,000 check.
Thomasboro Academy: Parents were there with kids at what they thought was a PTA appreciation dinner. Then Newton walked in. Food Lion gave away bags of groceries and each family there got a $500 Food Lion gift card.
The faces on the kids at each stop were priceless, adults too. That's what Newton told us keeps his Christmas tradition going.
"Just putting them in the Christmas spirit or the energy that they give me. It's just unmatched," Newton said.
At each stop, Newton took time to visit with guests and take dozens of pictures with fans.
His entourage left each stop with smiles.