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14th Annual Warners' Warmup

Brenda Warner talks with Navy veteran Marion McNeely of St. Louis on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, at the Warners' Warm-Up at St. Patrick's Center in downtown St. Louis. McNeely served from 1977 to 1997. The wife of the former Rams Superbowl quarterback gave away about 150 hats, coats and pairs of gloves to area veterans for the 14th straight year. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

It has been 14 seasons since Kurt Warner last threw a pass in St. Louis. But Warner’s charitable foundation, First Things First, is as active as ever in the area.

“Sometimes you wonder: Is the support gonna stop? Is it not gonna be able to have as great an impact as it did when we were there?” Warner said. “But we haven’t seen that to be the case.”

Perhaps the most well-known charity endeavor for Kurt and wife Brenda in St. Louis, the Warner’s Warm-up, began in 2001 when the “Greatest Show on Turf” was still dominating with Warner at quarterback for the Rams. Sixteen years later, the annual coat drive is still going strong.

“We’re at 225,000 coats collected in total,” said Jennifer Zink, of the First Things First Foundation. “It speaks very highly to St. Louis and their generosity.”

Some adjustments have been made to the Warm-up over the years. What began as a one-day collection at a Rams home game during Warner’s time in St. Louis has expanded to a two-week collection period (Nov. 1-14) with collection sites all over the St. Louis metro area.

For example, collection points include FedEx Office locations, as well as several YMCAs and police stations. When the Rams left town after the 2015 season, the Blues stepped up in with a hockey game collection night. In recent years, Zink said 10,000 to 15,000 coats are donated annually for distribution to the needy.

“It’s amazing that it’s only gotten bigger since we left,” Warner said. “That to me is the thing that jumps out. We’re dumbfounded. We’re blown away at how they continually support it.”

Warner’s Warm-up is not the only community outreach program in the St. Louis area for First Things First:

• Homes for the Holidays. Over the years, a total of 20 Habitat for Humanity homeowners have been surprised by the Warners with furnishings for their new homes. The latest St. Louis “surprise” took place July 3.

• We’re Going to Disney World. A total of 66 Make-A-Wish and Dream Factory families have joined the Warner family over the years on a weeklong trip to the amusement park in Orlando, Fla. This year’s trip concluded a week ago. Brenda goes on the smaller rides with the younger children; Kurt goes with the older kids on the big rides .

• Warner’s Corner. Recreational areas have been provided for children to take a fun break from treatment at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.

• Mission: Possible. Thirty-four scholarships have been awarded to youth groups from St. Louis doing service-based mission trips throughout the U.S. Four scholarships have been awarded to youth groups coming to St. Louis from elsewhere for service-based missions.

• Holiday Outreach. Every year, the Warners “adopt” a non-profit organization and provide Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers. On Thanksgiving, meals or a turkey are provided along with a Bible.

“It’s important to us to impact people,” Warner said. “If we can do it in places where they’ve impacted us, even better. Our goal is as far-reaching as we can make it. St. Louis has been incredible at continually supporting what we’re doing.”

Jim Thomas covers Blues hockey for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.