PDT Sports Writer
For 20 regular season contests this season, the Valley girls basketball team’s goals are to be kind and unselfish towards each other as the Indians strive for victories.
But on one occasion each year, the team turns their attention to being kind and unselfish towards others as they strive for giving less fortunate children a better Christmas. For the past three seasons, Valley’s annual charity event has been a slam dunk for area families.
This year, the Indian girls basketball team purchased new toys and donated them for the “Shop with Teddy Trooper” campaign in association with Post 73 of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. It’s an initiative the basketball program and coach Mark Merritt are pleased to be a part of this holiday season.
Two years ago, a group of Merritt’s players approached him about helping a local family who experienced some misfortunes before the holiday season. Up to that point, the team had gathered for the final practice before the holiday break for a gift exchange.
“We decided to take the whole family on and just buy Christmas gifts for the little kids,” Merritt said. “…Our kids really, really got excited about that, just knowing that they took part in making a young child’s Christmas much better than what it would’ve been.”
Last year, the program joined Chris Spencer and Spencer’s Station to help in the toy drive conducted by the restaurant. Merritt said it was a perfect match.
“We always had our pizza parties at Chris’ so we asked to get involved with him last year,” Merritt said. “We got names of boys and girls and we bought presents.”
This year, Merritt contacted an acquaintance with the OSHP to see what the troopers were doing for the holidays. The post, led by Post Commander Lt. Karla Taulbee, affiliates themselves with the annual event to gather items for children in need.
The 16 high school girls each took a name and shopped for 11 boys and five girls ages 1-13.
“The shopping was quite exciting for some of the girls,” Merritt said.
Not only did the players play Secret Santa, the coaching staff got into the spirit as Merritt and assistant coach Beth Coriell each shopped around for presents.
In all, the drive provided gifts for 40 children this holiday season. Merritt believes this activity helps provide an idea of what Christmas is supposed to be.
“It’s helping those in need and it makes you feel better to give than receive,” Merritt said. “My girls truly feel that.”
Make no mistake, Merritt mentioned his team does it not for the recognition, but to see that area kids are receiving a better Christmas. Even Valley Principal Lisa Hartley was unaware of what the team has been doing until just recently.
“We get more excited with this type of giving than when we receive those passing party gifts, it means a lot more,” Merritt said.
The charitable work does not stop with the girls basketball team. Recently, the Valley High School collected over 2,000 cans of food for the needy. The staff also donates money and gives out food baskets.
At this time of the year, the Valley community wants to live by one quote from Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol,’ where there is nothing so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org.