make it better

Jan 23

Wesley Matthews Rings In Winter Coat Drive

By make it better
On a January afternoon in Portland it was raining. No big surprise there as the wet and cold are trademarks of winter in the Pacific Northwest. The difference on this day came at the hands of Portland Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews. Fresh off a six-game road trip, he spent the better part of the afternoon at a local Fred Meyer kicking off the second annual Fred Meyer Coat Drive.

Matthews was joined by youth who participate in local Police Activities League (PAL) programs. Big fans of the Trail Blazers, Matthews used his time with the group to talk hoops, but more importantly to impart a life lesson: philanthropy.

The kids had two shopping carts. At the behest of who they called “Mr. Matthews,” they each picked out two coats and any other gloves and hats they could find—a red angry birds hat was the most popular—for donation. In less than ten minutes their cart was overflowing with jackets of all sizes and colors, the kids brimming with joy at their contributions to kick off the coat drive.

After another short pep talk about the importance of giving back, Matthews surprised the group with a shopping spree of their own. Cart number two was for new coats, Trail Blazers gear and shoes just for them. Over the next half-hour the PAL kids streaked the aisles of the shoe department while decked out in their jackets of choice.

“Ninety-five percent of the kids who attend the Portland PAL youth center are on free or reduced lunches and about 80 percent of them are on welfare or their families are on welfare of some type,” Associate Director Patricia TenEyck said. “They don’t often see brand new things and so it’s a great thing for these kids to know that other people care about them.”

As a professional athlete, basketball is a major part of Matthews’ life, but not all of it. He acknowledges that entertaining crowds is a key factor in his job, but insists what’s more important and what defines who his is, are his contributions to the community.

“I was excited to do this,” Matthews said. “When I found out we had that long road trip and you know especially with the way I’ve been playing and the way the team has been playing, kinda up and down, you need to get away from basketball. And this kind of thing is great. It puts everything in perspective. It’s a way of life for us, basketball, it’s how we provide, but at the same time it’s something that we do, it’s not who we are. This is what defines who you are, this is great for me to be able to come out and do this.”

You can help keep local youth warm and dry by donating new or gently used coats to the Wesley Matthews Coat Drive from January 23rd-February 12th at any local area Fred Meyer or by bringing your coats to the February 4th Trail Blazers game against the Denver Nuggets.

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