Following years of feeling at home on a football field as running back for the New York Giants, Rashad Jennings has found a new home at Hallmark. After winning the coveted mirror-ball trophy on season 24 of Dancing with the Stars in 2017, the successful TV talk and sports show personality, author, speaker and philanthropist became involved with Hallmark Channel’s ever-popular annual Kitten Bowl – and it proved to be a move that opened the door to more opportunities than he could have imagined. One of those is his latest project for Hallmark Drama, Project Christmas Joy, a heartfelt special intent on instilling some Christmas spirit and enriching and rebuilding lives in the communities of Beauregard and Smith’s Station, Alabama, whose inhabitants were devastated by loss after two E4 tornadoes ravaged both towns this past March. Twenty-three people perished in the disaster, and over 100 homes were destroyed, so for Jennings, the chance to be a part of such an important event was, in itself, very powerful. “As soon as I heard the premise, it was a no-brainer and I was totally into it,” he shared in an exclusive MediaVillage interview. “Hallmark, especially during the holidays, is an organization anyone would be happy to be a part of ... [not to mention] taking on a Christmas project like this one!
“I’m an emotional creature,” he continued. “I love to highlight anything good. But I have to say some of doing this was tough. When you hear some of the stories from families … being there with them is very different from hearing stories from a distance. It’s reality; nothing about this is scripted, and you are hearing the stories live. It made them hold so much more meaning. For me, it was amazing to actually feel like a part of the community and its rebuild.”
In addition to decorating Providence Baptist Church (the community heart) and creating a night of holiday fellowship for the community, Crown Media Family Networks will be sponsoring homes to be built for a few townspeople who lost everything during the tornadoes. Jennings will also highlight some local heroes. “There are a lot of people down there who deserve so much recognition, and with this, we get a chance to do that. It was such a good project to be involved in.
“So many heroes from across the globe came to the community to give, and a company called Fuller House is helping rebuild the community,” he added. “[In total] we [are working on] five families’ homes. You get to see people caring for others, and as the facilitator of it all, it was a reminder that just showing up and giving your time can make all the difference. It’s something I got to experience firsthand.”
Since his DWTS win, life has taken a vastly different path for Jennings. Reflecting on all that he has achieved, he said he feels “great.” And he’s still dancing whenever he can. “I fell in love with it,” he shared. “I wish someone had introduced it to me a long time ago, and I love going back to DWTS when I can, to judge or fill in on a trio dance.”
In addition to his philanthropic work, the children’s book author has also been invited to participate in next year's DWTS tour, proving dance is still a big deal in his life. He’s delighted to have both the DWTS and Hallmark families in his life. “You can’t have enough family in life,” he laughed. “It just makes Thanksgiving and Christmas all the bigger!” In January he begins conversations with Hallmark about embarking on an acting career, putting those acting classes he’s been taking to use. “It’s about finding the right project that makes sense,” he said. “I had an opportunity last year, but it didn’t pan out.
“I’m so glad to be in the Hallmark family for sure,” Jennings added in closing. “I wouldn’t shy away from doing something that has a sports-related story, but I do really want to work on the craft of acting. I’m also a helpless romantic and have written some things I’d like to see on the screen, so I’m hopeful that next year something jumps off the page.”
Project Christmas Joy will be telecast Tuesday, December 10 at9 p.m. on Hallmark Drama.
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