PLYMOUTH — This Christmas marks the second year that John Glenn basketball players have teamed up with younger students for a little holiday shopping.
“It’s hard to explain the smile on these kid’s faces,” said assistant basketball coach Ryan Reese. “They are so excited. (The players) are role models to them and they look up to them.”
The program began last year, when school faculty wanted to localize the “Shop with a Cop” idea. “Shop with a Player” began, allowing each varsity player to pick a shopping buddy — an elementary or middle school student identified by school counselors as someone in need of financial help — for a trip to Wal-Mart.
Assistant basketball coach Ryan Reese said that the day gives his players firsthand experience with students who are a little less fortunate than themselves.
“They have grown up a little bit, (and) they understand that some kids don’t have the basic things they had when they were growing up,” said Reese.
According to Reese, the highlight of the trip — for players and kids alike — is the toy aisle.
After the first trip in 2010, Reese and other coaches were inundated with calls and texts from the players, saying how much they had enjoyed the event. Several seniors even added that they would be willing to come back and do it again next year, after their high school graduation.
This year, the event expanded to include the junior varsity team as well, and eight more children. The players participated before the day of the trip by suggesting donors.
“There’s no way we could do it without our donors,” said Reese, adding that the funds for the trip were raised completely by about 30 local donors.
Reese said that the children’s necessitates were purchased in advance by he and his wife, allowing the kids to pick out just “want” items on their shopping trip.
“Shop with a Player” is totally toy-oriented — it’s just want they want,” said Reese.
After shopping, the group enjoyed lunch at Wing’s Etc.
The players and their families later painstakingly wrapped all of the gifts the children had selected, and they will be delivered later as part of John Glenn’s Adopt a Family Christmas event. Reese said that he hopes his team’s positive experience will inspire others to help out in the same way.
“We know that there are kids in every community that have needs, and we would love to see other local teams do things of this nature,” said Reese. “We will do it as long as the donors are there, and I think they will be.”