Celtics Host Holiday Party for Homeless Children

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Boston Celtics have teamed up with The Home for Little Wanderers for an annual holiday party over the last five years to bring cheer to homeless youth. This year’s highly anticipated event was held Tuesday afternoon at the Celtics practice facility in Waltham. With only the Celtics’ 15 players and 60 kids from various shelters and group homes in attendance, the intimate setting gave the group a chance to really get to know each other during the two-hour event.

The current Celtics team, along with Celtics Legend Dana Barros and Lucky, greeted the 60 kids on the basketball court.

E'Twaun Moore

Celtics rookie E'Twaun Moore plays a game of Jenga with one of the youngsters at the annual holiday party.

“We’re so excited to be here today,” said guard Ray Allen. “We’ve got a lot of activities for you all that include decorating cookies, playing on the basketball court and making ice cream sundaes. At the end we’ll bring everyone back together for a dunk show and a special surprise!”

With that introduction, the youth were definitely eager to spend time with the players while doing different activities. The kids and the team were divided into three groups to begin the event. On the basketball court, youth played games of ‘Knock Out’ while listening to music from DJ Dre Soundz. Upstairs in the conference room, youth enjoyed ice cream sundaes donated from Ben & Jerry’s and also had the opportunity to learn more about the players and ask some questions. One youth asked newcomer Brandon Bass if he liked being a Celtic. Bass smiled and happily nodded “yes.”

The final station included cookie decoration and board games including Connect-4 and Jenga. Many of the children clamored to Rondo’s table for the chance to upend the undefeated point guard. Three youth were successful and were rewarded with a signed pair of shoes from Rondo.

Following the activity stations, it was time to head back to the court for a few more surprises. New Celtics player Keyon Dooling introduced the team and thanked the youth for coming out for the day.

“I waited to introduce the rookies last,” said Dooling. “JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore were our 2011 draft picks and they both played at Purdue. We wanted to make sure they gave you all a special welcome so they have decided to dance for you guys!”

Almost immediately, DJ Dre Soundz was playing music and the two attempted to show the group some moves. The rookies weren’t done, however. Dooling told the rookies that there was another surprise for them. Lucky came out onto the court and asked them to hold a basketball for him above their heads. The two stood eight feet in front of the basket holding the ball as Lucky ran the length of the court, jumped off the trampoline, grabbed the ball from them, did a front flip and then successfully dunked the ball. Johnson and Moore winced as Lucky was running toward them but managed to stand still to get the assist on Lucky’s dunk. The youth all exploded into cheers.

With the holiday party coming to an end, it was time for the presents. Players disappeared into the weight room and reappeared with personalized duffle bags for each of the 60 youth. One by one, the players each handed gifts to the children. Thanks to generous donations from the Celtics players, staff, coaches and corporate sponsors. including Reebok, adidas, Gatorade, Cumberland Farms and Old Mutual, each youth received an iPod Touch, a $30 iTunes gift card, an iPod Dock, a $50 Reebok gift card, a winter coat, a Celtics hoodie, a Celtics winter hat, a Reebok duffle, a squeeze bottle, winter gloves and a basketball. Additionally, the youth received items from their particular wish lists.

“This is my favorite day of the year” said Community Relations Director Matt Meyersohn. “It all hit home for me today when one of the teens pulled me aside after getting his gifts and asked me if everything was new. At first I didn’t know how to respond but when I said yes, his eyes got really wide and he said, ‘Wow, I’ve never gotten new stuff like this before.’ It was one of those moments where I remember just how lucky I am.”

Allen echoed a similar sentiment after the event came to a close.

“It was nice seeing the kids’ faces when they got their presents,” he said. “For most of them, this event is the only time they’ll be opening gifts around the holidays. I’m glad we were able to make their holidays memorable with this event that I’m sure they will never forget.”