Ballers Play Santa
Native sons Josh Howard of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers continued on Dec. 13 an annual tradition of making the holiday season a little brighter for local youth.
The Josh Howard Foundation and the CP3 Foundation joined forces for the fourth consecutive year to give $100 Toys R Us gift cards to children hailing from Forest Park Elementary, the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club and the city’s recreation centers.
One hundred ten children, who were handpicked by leaders from their respective organizations, were given gift cards, event t-shirts and tickets to the Dec. 18 Wake Forest versus Furman basketball game at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Howard and Paul played at Wake before becoming stars in the NBA.
[pullquote]It’s always cool to give back, and I love to see smiles on their faces,” said Paul[/pullquote]This year was the first time that Paul, a West Forsyth High School alumnus, was able to attend the event. The Clippers beat the Charlotte Bobcats in the Queen City the night before, putting CP3, a basketball moniker Paul picked up at Wake, a short distance away from his hometown. Howard’s T-Wolves schedule made it impossible for him to attend.
“The best thing about today is the fact that I get to be here. It’s always cool to give back, and I love to see smiles on their faces,” said Paul, a father of two. “….I think the most valuable thing that I can give is my time … Just to talk to somebody for 10 minutes, it goes a long way and that’s why it’s so important for me to be here.”
As he addressed the lucky young gift card recipients, Paul asked each of them to make at least one purchase for a friend or family member.
Angel McGriff’s son Christian Sutton was one of the lucky youngsters selected through his involvement at the Hanes Hosiery Recreation Center, where he took part in a basketball camp offered by Paul’s foundation last year.
“He loves basketball so anything that has to do with basketball, he wants to show up,” McGriff said of Christian.
McGriff has been on disability for several years. She said that the holiday shopping spree for Christian was a welcome reprieve.
“It is so awesome that he’s doing this for the kids, ” she said of Paul. “So many parents don’t have much to give their kids, so him helping out is real good. I’m a single parent and I just appreciate everything that he (does).”
[pullquote]It’s showing that people still do care about the people that’s less fortunate.[/pullquote]Hanes Hosiery Director Art Blevins ushered Christian and seven year-old Rashaud Tucker through the crowd inside the toy store to shop. Blevins said he picked the two boys because of the stellar behavior they have exhibited at the rec center over the years.
“They just have great attitudes, and they’re humble so they deserved it,” he said.
Krystal Farington brought her three children Jaleel, 7, Ka’Niyah, 3 and Kyrah, 2 out to shop for one another during the event.
“It means a lot,” Farington said of the foundations’ program. “It’s showing that people still do care about the people that’s less fortunate.”
City native Leander Jones and his 10-year-old son, Leander Jr., a longtime Boys & Girls Club member, took their time milling through the store, looking for the perfect toy for the Cash Elementary fifth grader who is affectionately known as “LJ.” Meeting Paul, one of the NBA’s legitimate superstars, was a bonus gift for the boy.
“I’m a Chris Paul fan, but I rarely get to see him (on TV),” he said. “It was really cool to meet him.”
The senior Jones, a father of two and grandfather of three, said his son hasn’t fully realized the magnitude of being at the feet of a basketball star.
“It ain’t really hit him yet, but once he sees him on TV, it’ll hit him,” commented Jones, who has been married for 18 years.
Jones praised Paul for not forgetting where he came from.
“Him giving back to the kids, that is so cool,” said the Valspar paint technician. “All of them (NBA players) don’t do it, but he came down, and I’m sure Josh Howard would have too if he could.”
Unit Director Pappi Conrad brought 38 children from the Ken Carlson Boys & Girls Club to the Hanes Mall Boulevard toy store.
“I’m just as excited as the kids are,” she declared. “I just think it means joy because they get to see someone who cares about them, and it gives them part ownership because they get to shop for themselves, and they just have fun.”
Conrad, who selects the youngsters she brings based on need, behavior and grades, said she was pleased with Paul’s request that the children think of others as well as themselves when they shopped, because caring for others is one of the chief tenants of Salvation Army programs.
“We always talk to them about giving back. They are used to looking out for each other, looking out for someone else because they know someone’s looking out for them,” she said. “It’s a great experience in giving back. I just appreciate the organizations doing this for the kids. It teaches them that no matter how high you go, it’s always important to give back because there’s always someone in need.”