Calera basketball teams make a difference for kids ahead of Christmas

Published 9:54 am Thursday, December 23, 2021

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

CALERA – There was a lot of shouting and screaming inside Calera High School’s gymnasium on Saturday morning, Dec. 18, but it wasn’t from either of the basketball teams hitting a 3-pointer or throwing down a show-stopping dunk. No, it was about something much bigger.

Gathered in the gym alongside special needs children from all of the schools in Calera, players from the boys and girls basketball teams watched as the kids opened their donated gifts a week before Christmas.

After each gift was opened, the players and the kids all went crazy. They shouted and screamed and celebrated like a three-point bucket was just hit in a big game at the buzzer.

“Our players made it a big deal and made them feel welcome,” said Calera assistant coach Adam Lawson.” That makes you happy. They all seemed comfortable and really just had a good time with laughter. That’s what we do this for.”

It is an event that has become tradition for the Eagles, who have now done it for five of the last six years.

This year, however, was different and meant possibly just a little bit more.

Usually, the event brings in kids from the local housing authority, but this year, they wanted to not only share with them, but also children in the community with disabilities.

“Every year, this event always gets me excited,” Lawson said. “You get to bring those local kids in and let them know, ‘Hey, you guys mean a lot to us, and we want to serve you all.’ If you can make a kids’ day, that’s what it’s all about. That’s what we really push for.”

This year’s event also marked the return after it had to be canceled due to COVID-19 last year, while it also was an important opportunity of growth for a young team of which many hadn’t experienced the moment before.

“Kids get caught up in the points and the write-ups with those, but we also want them to know how important this is as a team as well,” Lawson said.

Teaching the players to buy in for something bigger than themselves is something head coach George Drake has preached since he stepped into the role of leading the Eagles, and it is why he started this event several years ago.

And it builds off of the team’s constant quote of, “He who climbs, helps the other up.”

“We use that quote in practice and in games,” Lawson said. “You know, if one guy isn’t having the best game, you go and lift him up. Let him know the team still needs you. We use the same dynamic in this particular event. You always have to be bigger than yourself. Always help someone up. That’s what we preach.”

The day starts with some basketball fun with all the kids in attendance before they all enjoy breakfast together.

Then, they all gather together in the gym to open the presents, which were donated from the players, who each brought in $10-15 wrapped gifts.

“That’s always been coach Drakes’ thing. Teaching our guys to give back and what this season is all about,” Lawson said. “This year, we got that out of them. That’s what’s most important.”

Throughout the remainder of the event, the players joined alongside the kids as they opened gifts, interacting with them throughout and then, of course, playing a little more hoops to cap off the day.

“Just to see the smiles on their faces, we know they were looking up to our guys,” Lawson said. “Our guys are role models, and in life, we want them to always be that role model.”

It also came a night after arguably the biggest win of the season for both the boys and girls, but they both woke up and got to the school, putting forth the same energy they had the night before with the kids that morning.

That led to the kids in attendance smiling from ear-to-ear the entire morning as they got to play with the players they look up to and then create special Christmas memories.

At the end of the day, there were also still 16 gifts left to be donated to the housing authority, which have since been picked up and delivered to those kids to make their Christmas memorable for yet another year.