Tis the season for charitable work, even among high school athletes. More specifically, a whole crop of high school teams in Michigan have stepped forward to provide gifts and services for their less fortunate neighbors.
Channeling the spirit of the season, a high school basketball team in Michigan diverted part of its annual funds dedicated to uniforms and travel expenses to “adopt a child” for Christmas, a pledge that meant the team was responsible for buying presents and offering support for an area child in need.
According to AnnArbor.com, Ann Arbor (Mich.) Pioneer High basketball coach Rex Stanczak was inspired to take on the responsibility for a young boy’s holiday gifts while listening to local sports talk radio at a period when the station was hosting an annual charity donation drive. Stanczsk called the radio station and pledged his program’s support behind a 12-year-old boy, then organized a shopping trip for team members and booster parents to buy the child’s gifts.
The commitment cost Pioneer $125 out of its booster club funding, which pays for both team meals and better uniforms, but Stanczak insisted that the life lessons his players would take from the experience were worth far more than new jerseys.
“Fortunately, I have a great group of parents and kids right now that share that desire to help others,” Stanczak told AnnArbor.com. “The guys really had a good time with it and put a lot of thought into doing the Christmas shopping for this young man.”
Stanczak said that the school is also hoping to give the eventual gift recipient a pass to come to any Pioneer games he wants to, possibly even sitting near the team. The coach hopes that the boy’s family will accept the offer so his team can continue to feel the impact of their charity after the season wraps up.
Pioneer’s “adoption” was impressive, yet it pales in statistical comparison to the efforts taken by some other teams. The Magic of Christmas-Adopt a Family program in the Ann Arbor area was started by Saline (Mich.) High girls golf coach Debbie Williams-Hoak, who has used her role in the school to generate significant support from other sports programs. According to AnnArbor.com, eight teams at Saline High adopted children while the Ann Arbor (Mich.) Lincoln High athletic department collectively adopted 12 children.
Most impressively, the Ann Arbor (Mich.) Huron High basketball team adopted 11 children, nearly one for every player on the roster.
“There’s so much participation from area teams, it’s really grown trememendously since it started,” said Williams-Hoak told Ann-Arbor.com "It's really special."