Home for the Holidays with Albina Head Start
By make it better
The holidays arrived a bit earlier than scheduled for the Albina Head Start students when the Trail Blazers descended their classrooms in mid December. Coach McMillan gave the team the afternoon off just halfway through training camp to spread holiday cheer and to visit some of their youngest and smallest fans. The players tipped of Home for the Holidays by teaming with Trail Blazers office employee to adopt the 17 Albina Head Start classrooms throughout Portland.
The players arrived just as the young ones were waking from their post lunch naps. The kids walked into the play areas groggy but excited. The players, acting as overly tall versions of Santa Claus, some even wore Santa hats, handed out presents to each girl and boy. The kids reciprocated with offerings of their own. The students gave the gift of song to the players with holiday standards including Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer. Some of the players even joined in adding a special kind of harmony.
Once the singing had subsided, the kids were given the green light to open their presents. The players assisted on more tightly wrapped ones, but ultimately left the discovering of the insides to students. By the time the gifts were all unwrapped, it was difficult to tell the grown ups from the kids, as the players got down and played with the presents with the kids.
"I love Christmas. It changes a lot when you get older, but as a kid, that was my favorite holiday. You get gifts, you get a chance to spend a lot of time with your family, school off. Now it's a chance to do some of the same things, but for others," said Elliott Williams during the festivities.
No player, though enjoyed the experience more than Gerald Wallace: "It's fun because, at this age, their personalities are so different. Just to get out and mingle with them, you'd be amazed at some of the things kids say these days. It's fun, it's entertaining and these kids are always enjoyable to be around."
The gift opening free-for-all was followed by a party featuring juice and cookies for the students.
Albina Head Start has been serving Portland’s low income families and children since 1965, providing child growth and development services and education to strengthen and enhance the abilities of children and their families. The Trail Blazers believe in and support the mission of Albina Head Start. In 2004, the Albina Head Start McCormack-Matthews Center opened in North Portland, providing education and health services to preschoolers and their families. The project is a Trail Blazers family effort with nearly $1 million in contributions coming from Trail Blazers owner, Paul Allen, the Trail Blazers organization and alum Damon Stoudamire.