Target Shopping Spree Filled with Laughter, Tears, Horseplay

When the shopping was done, the carts were full and the kids were still on cloud nine is when tears started to well up in Yvonne Underhill’s eyes.

This was an emotionally exhausting experience for the grandmother and legal guardian of three, and there’s no easy way to tell her story.

Underhill and her husband, Ronnie, are sole providers for twin boys Jason and Jeremy, both 7, and 16-year-old Felicia, whose mother struggles with drug addiction.

Yvonne is unemployed and Ronnie recently was laid off. Through Sunbeam Family Services and the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program, they were one of 10 families selected for a Target shopping spree with the Thunder on Thursday evening. Each family received $1,000 to shop with -- $500 for the children, $500 for the grandparents -- courtesy of personal donations from the players.

Every little bit helped for Yvonne and the boys, who left Target with a Nintendo DS, scooters, helmets, basketballs and a football. And Yvonne was able to splurge on herself a bit, buying a new pillow and a coffee pot. The icing on the cake was the remaining balance of $61, which was put on a gift card for her to use in the future. On Thursday, she found out via mail that she’ll have an extensive surgery to remove a tumor on her back next week, so new clothes will be needed.

Underhill couldn’t hold back tears when talking about how much this shopping spree will help the family. She, like the others, was brought to tears when Target presented each family an additional $250 gift card for future use.

“I tell you what, I went to a Christmas party on Thursday and the media I’ve been watching (talks about) not how much you’ve been winning games but what you do for people, and that’s a miracle in itself,” she said.

Watching her grandchildren horse around with James Harden left her nodding her head, speechless and wiping tears from her eyes. And it meant something to Harden, too.

“Anytime you can give back it’s definitely an experience,” he said at the checkout line. “I’m happy. I’m having fun. It’s a blessing. They’re funny. They’re two twins. They were making me laugh and I felt like a kid again.”

It’s probably not a coincidence that nearly everyone ended up somewhere in aisles F44 to F73. That’s the toy department, and for the last three years at the all-team event, it’s usually been among the first stops on the shopping spree.

Daequan Cook shopped with a 6-year-old girl who headed straight for Disney’s Tangled toys. Jeff Green’s shopping family, which included two sisters, stuffed their cart with every Barbie product imaginable plus tubs of play dough. Green carried 6-year-old Emily and 3-year-old Nikki in each arm all the way through the checkout.

“Just to see the smile on Emily’s face and her sister’s, I had a great time,” Green said. “The kids themselves, they’re enthusiastic, they’re having fun just running around Target and grabbing everything. We were having a blast.”

Another thing that’s become routine at these Target shopping sprees is that at least one Thunder player will try to squeeze and contort his long limbs onto a children’s bicycle. Rumble was the first one to do it on Thursday. Without fail, Serge Ibaka, Cole Aldrich and Harden soon followed.

Down one aisle went Morris Peterson and his family with a HD television for grandma. Thabo Sefolosha moved swiftly through the electronics section and to the PS3 games for the 15-year-old twin boys he was shopping with. Eric Maynor passed by Cook and said, pointing to 9-year-old Amarion, “He doesn’t like anything but video games!”

Away from the action was Kevin Durant, who shopped with two teenage boys in the men’s clothing section, where they were trying on winter coats.

Shoppers stopped what they were doing to follow Durant for a few moments, taking pictures and trying to get his attention.

“I’m in Target right next to Kevin Durant!” one lady exclaimed over her cell phone.

One boy who had a chance to meet most of the Thunder roster was 11-year-old Zach, who attends Special Care and has his older sister, Beth Richmond, as a legal guardian after both of his parents died suddenly within the last year.

Zach struck up a friendship with Nick Collison during one of the Thunder forward’s visits to Special Care earlier this year and the two have kept in touch ever since. Collison taught Zach a special handshake and occasionally gives his family tickets to Thunder games.

On Thursday, they reconnected.

“It was good to see him again,” Collison said. “He’s doing well. He’s excited to meet our guys. I introduced him to Russell and we’re looking for Kevin right now. He knew what he wanted right away. He was easy, quick. He got the Xbox 360, NBA 2K11, Madden 2K11 and a controller.”

The remainder of the money was spent on Zach’s 14 cousins. Richmond emptied out her shopping cart last, placing about a dozen or so boxes of crayons and school supplies on the checkout conveyor belt. She couldn’t help herself from purchasing supplies for the Special Care classrooms.

Said Richmond: “I feel bad taking for myself when there’s so many people that need it.”

Contact Chris Silva