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North Carolina team donates more than 500 toys for annual holiday charity drive

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It’s always heartwarming to see a team rally around a charitable cause to celebrate the holidays together. One program in North Carolina has made a tradition of just such activity, with the Smithfield (N.C.) South Johnston High baseball team pushing out its own charitable envelope even further for its 2012 Christmas fundraising efforts.

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South Johnston baseball players shop for gifts for the Toys for Tots toy drive — News & Observer

South Johnston baseball players shop for gifts for the Toys for Tots toy drive — News & Observer

As reported by the News & Observer, the South Johnston baseball program raised an inspiring $3,400 to buy toys for the Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots drive. The squad then broke into 9 mini-teams of players, who went to Wal Mart and spent $350 per group on toys for the drive.

The result was a massive donation of 529 new toys for the Marine Corps toy drive.

South Johnston head baseball coach Keith Durham, who first started the team’s involved with the Toys for Tots drive, said that the annual charitable exhibition helped teach his players important values while also demonstrating the team’s commitment to the community at large.

“One of the positives of it is you are doing something for somebody without recognition for yourself,” Durham told the News & Observer. “It’s bringing joy to someone for the sake of bringing joy. If we can make Christmas morning better for even one child, then it is worth it.

“It does bring the team together. As hard as we push them and as much as we focus on wins and losses and balls and strikes and things like that, this helps keep things in perspective a little bit too. We want to win, there is no doubt. But there are bigger things in life and helping other people is one of those things.”

Beyond the good things that the toy drive does for North Carolinians in need, it also provides an opportunity for some of the players to laugh at themselves, or at the very least deal with the awkwardness that comes from a teenage boy purchasing gifts for young girls.

“It’s always fun to watch high school boys buy baby dolls,” Durham said. “It has become fun for the guys. It has become a project that they have embraced and look forward to every year.

“It just gives us an opportunity to try and help those less fortunate than us. It kind of helps keep the kids grounded, helps them realize that everybody may have everything on Christmas morning that they want.”

The team’s fundraising efforts -- which were drawn predominantly from a massive auction held for $100 gift cards -- are also important for the drive itself; across the eight years that South Johnson has participated in the Toys for Tots drive, the team has raised more than $25,000 and purchased more than 3,500 toys for the Marine Corps charity.

And, no one can claim that the team doesn’t dress festively for the event, either. Just check out those green jerseys, a take-off on the classic Houston Astros duds. Add a red scarf and the team could practically be a group of marauding sports Santas in the Wal Mart aisles.

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