Column: Holiday Shopping Event Shows Sport At Its Best

In this file photo from last year, Ricky Rubio poses with a child who took part in the annual Holiday Shopping for Kids shopping spree. (Photo credit: David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images)

Column: Holiday Shopping Event Shows NBA At Its Best

I remember my first day at the Timberwolves organization like it was yesterday. It was an overcast, partially snowy day in downtown Minneapolis two Decembers ago, and over the course of the day I went through orientation, got acquainted with the team’s practice routine and watched the preseason open scrimmage they held for fans at Target Center.

I didn’t realize then that I was about to cover my favorite annual event later that evening. That night, I witnessed Holiday Shopping for Kids for the first time—the team’s annual event through the FastBreak Foundation, the Roger and Nancy McCabe Foundation and sponsored by SPIRE Federal Credit Union. That night, I saw kids who were awaiting adoption through the Minnesota Adoption Resource Network get a $500 Target shopping spree while getting to meet and interact with their favorite Timberwolves players.

Tonight, I was at my third Holiday Shopping for Kids event, and it never gets old. It’s a chance to see the players joking with the kids (22 total), helping them pick out what they want to buy and—by and large—act as kids themselves. The kids, who are going through the unimaginable uncertainty of finding a permanent home, get a free pass at Target to get anything they want this holiday season. Bikes, Playstations, toys, books—it’s all on the table.

To see the kids get autographs from the players and enjoy their company along with getting such a big gift from the FastBreak Foundation and their sponsors is one of the coolest things I’ve witnessed as a sports writer. To hear some of these kids say that this is the greatest surprise of their lives or banter back and forth with the players really is indescribable—these NBA athletes, whether they know it or not, are making some of these young kids’ dreams come true.

Although, when I talk to these players and see the look in their eyes, I know they understand the magnitude of what they’re doing. Ricky Rubio echoed it on Twitter about an hour after the event.

There are so many little moments that take place during these shopping sprees that stand out. The first year, one of the kids was a die-hard Michael Beasley fan. He was so happy when he got to meet him for the first time and get his autograph.

Last year, Kevin Love escorted around a teenager who was an aspiring basketball player. He talked with Love about the game and did a little electronic shopping to accentuate his wardrobe heading to the gym--Beats by Dre headphones are a big deal for basketball players young and old these days. But when he got down to his last $50-100, he took his shopping cart into the grocery section and bought food. A teenager with a shopping spree spent part of that cash on groceries. That puts things into perspective.

And this year, one of the kids used part of his money to buy a bike. He was so thrilled, and he couldn’t wait to ride it when he got home. But he knew he needed to ride it on the sidewalk, not in the street, because with the ice and snow he needed to be cautious of safety. These kids are so practical, even during an event when they have so much excitement right in front of them.

The Wolves loved it, too. Corey Brewer, who participated in this event when he was with Minnesota the first time around, said he looked forward to doing it again once he came back to the Timberwolves this summer. He was hilarious helping the kids in the electronic section.

Dante Cunningham was in the toy department, and believe it or not that was his niche area. He is a self-proclaimed Nerf gun guru, and he rallied off everything you needed to know about the selection on hand.

Nikola Pekovic spent most of his time in the electronic department, but he showed up in toys later on and modeled some action figure mask toward the end of the event.

To everyone involved with this event—SPIRE, the McCabes, MARN, the FastBreak Foundation, Target and SEVEN—thank you for allowing this event to happen year in and year out. A new group of kids who sometimes really need a boost during a season so many of us take for granted are given an unforgettable evening with NBA athletes. This type of event is what makes the NBA so great. To have an organization and its players take part and enjoy a shopping spree with kids means so much within the community that makes their lifestyles—their livelihood—possible. This community supports the franchise, and the franchise wants to make sure it gives back in special ways.

This is a special way, and it’s an unforgettable experience for everyone involved.

Watch for a full story on the event tomorrow on, including a behind-the-scenes video showing you what it was like to be there tonight.

I'm proud to in a small way be part of an organization that reaches out to kids in the community like this, and I'm already looking forward to enjoying my fourth trip to the event next year.

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