Jayhawks Showcase Present-Picking Skills for Lawrence Families

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Finals week has the Kansas men’s basketball team ready for a break to get out in the community and enjoy some holiday spirit. The Jayhawks used their pause in classroom action for the team’s annual shopping trip for Lawrence-area families Thursday night.
 Jamari Traylor compares which toys are the best
for his Lawrence family’s wish list.
All 15 players were joined by head coach Bill Self, his coaching staff, student managers, family members and friends as they assembled at a local Wal-Mart to find “Wish List” gifts for 15 total families. Former KU standout Roger Morningstar, and his wife Linda, began the tradition in the early 1990s and they continue to work with the Salvation Army of Douglas County in organizing the annual event.
An all-time favorite holiday tradition for the team, the shopping trip benefits Lawrence families in need. Along with Morningstars, the event is sponsored by Self’s Assists Foundation and the Rock Chalk Roundball Classic organization. The number of families that benefit has grown each year and nearly $10,000 was spent on gifts Thursday night.
“We’ve been blessed in so many ways,” Self said. “To have the opportunity – through the generosity of the people that have helped with funding – to do something for families that may not have otherwise had the chance to have the Christmas that their kids have dreamed of is really special. Our guys really enjoy doing this. Some of our guys came from a place where Christmas was a struggle every year, so it really means a lot to them to be able to give back.”
Team-bonding and community-involvement rolled into one tradition, the Jayhawk shoppers met in the store lobby before Morningstar gave each player a list of gifts for a specific family and a budget in which to maintain. The players, along with coaches’ wives and other shopping cohorts, then broke loose throughout the store.
On Thursday, gifts ranged from every member of the family, including pots and pans, tool sets, coats, blankets and – of course – toys. Players had a blast rolling bikes to the registers, finding the best superheroes and picking out the perfect pair of shoes. Even a pink guitar made it into a cart. 
“Things like this are bigger than basketball,” sophomore guard Wayne Selden, Jr. said. “We have the opportunity to help people. When you’re on a platform like we are on, we want to do better and make people’s lives better. We’re very fortunate to play at the University of Kansas and we want the people in our community to see that we really care about them, too.”
As each list was completed, the present hunters brought their loot to the registers to have it rang up and loaded on the truck that will soon deliver it to each family. The smiles on the faces of each player was a telling sign of the pride felt to have spent the evening with a worthy cause.
“It makes me happy,” freshman Kelly Oubre, Jr. said. “It’s definitely a blessing to do this for these kids. They might not have those special Christmases like we’ve had and to be doing this with my brothers and my teammates. I’ll remember this forever.”
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