- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 27, 2013

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Michael Vick finishes practice and is eager to get home to celebrate his daughter London’s sixth birthday. First, he takes time to put smiles on many other children’s faces.

It’s two days before the Philadelphia Eagles host the Dallas Cowboys in a first-half showdown for first place in the NFC East. Vick isn’t going to play because of an injured hamstring. That’s disappointing news for one of his biggest fans, 7-year-old Justin Perales.

But this courageous child who overcame brain surgery and a ruptured aneurysm was in for a special surprise on a beautiful Friday afternoon in October.

Perales and his father, Eddie, were invited to the Eagles‘ practice facility. Justin, recovering well after being in an induced coma for five weeks, was waiting in a wheelchair in the lobby when his favorite player arrived.

The boy’s eyes lit up when Vick walked in and gave him a fist-pump. That was just the beginning.

Vick served as Justin’s personal tour guide around the building. The four-time Pro Bowl quarterback wheeled the boy into the weight room, introduced him to teammates, took him on the practice field and finished with a trip to the locker room. After posing for pictures at his locker, Vick handed Justin a pair of tickets for the game against the Cowboys and also gave him an autographed football.

“I love kids,” Vick said. “I’ll always think if one of my own was going through what some kids are going through in this world, things they can’t control, how I’d want someone to be there for them and try to put a smile on their face. He’s smiling right now and I was able to do that. It makes it all worth it.”

After spending about an hour with Justin, Vick wasn’t done. Next came a visit to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Vick posed for pictures, signed autographs and spoke to children with various ailments.

“It’s hard to see children going through that,” Vick said. “I just wanted to stop by and hang out with them.”

Four years after his release from prison, Vick is one of the NFL’s most active players involved in charities. He created the Team Vick Foundation to support the power of a second chance by partnering with charities that provide hope to at-risk youth; the incarcerated, addicted or impoverished; and animal welfare.

In July, Vick met with U.S. Congressman John Lewis in Washington to promote Team Freedom Outreach, a charity that mentors children in youth detention centers.

“I want to inspire young kids to dream and give them a sense of hope for their situation,” Vick said.

Vick received the key to the city from the mayor of Atlantic City last year for his support following Hurricane Sandy. He donated $200,000 to create a football field for at-risk youth in a North Philadelphia neighborhood. He visits schools, prisons and reaches out to help wherever he can.

There’s also his work with the Humane Society of the United States. After serving 18 months in federal prison for his role in a dogfighting operation, Vick became an advocate for animal rights.

He introduced a bill with the Humane Society _ The Animal Spectator Prohibition Act _ that would make it a felony to bring a child to an animal fight. He also produced public service announcements for the Humane Society.

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