Wolves Participate in Successful 8th Annual Holiday Shopping With Kids
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Most Minnesotans know the feeling of being stuck in winter traffic: Spending an hour or two on the highway, wheels spinning, frustrated because it feels like you’re going nowhere.
For Lorenzo Davis, Outreach Recruiting Specialist for MARN (Minnesota Adoption Resource Network), that’s how the frustrations of foster children waiting for a permanent home feel every day.
“If you can sort of internalize that process and expand that beyond just the hour or two hours you’re there,” Davis said. “That’s what the kids went through this year.”
Related Content: CLICK HERE to view a photo gallery from Monday's Holiday Shopping for Kids event
In trying to alleviate some of the stress and pressures for these children during the holiday season, the Minnesota Timberwolves organization teamed up with MARN and SPIRE Federal Credit Union to provide the eighth annual Holiday Shopping for Kids event on Monday night.
Eleven children in foster care from ages 7 to 16 went on a $1,000 shopping spree at the downtown Target location—accompanied by a player from the Timberwolves.
"I think it's great," Wolves forward Kevin Love said. "Some people growing up don't have the means to attain or to go out and buy some of the necessities they need for everyday life but also the stuff they really want around the holiday season. So for him to, and the kids we have here today, to be able to shop and have $1,000 shopping spree here, it's a lot of fun and we get a lot of fun out of it just by seeing the look in their eyes and seeing the different things they pick out."
Most of the kids were from the metropolitan area, but a few were from outstate Minnesota as well. In all, MARN includes 355 children—a number that has successfully dropped since partnering with the Timberwolves and their “Season of Giving” initiative.
“When this program started with the Wolves, we were looking at well over 800 (children),” Davis said. “Thanks to the Wolves, we’ve got the list down to under 400. But still, 355 is not a great number...About 60 percent of our kids tend to find a pre-adoptive home through the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Season of Giving, and that corresponds almost equally with the number of kids finding a home throughout the year. That number is usually closer to 45-50 percent. We actually have a higher success rate with this program than we do with our own accord.”
The night started off with an inconspicuous taco party at SEVEN Steakhouse, just across the street from Target Center. Timberwolves President Chris Wright then took the floor and revealed to the children that they were in fact about to experience much more than just a nacho buffet.
This year, Wright surprised everyone by announcing that the spending amount was doubled to $1,000.
“It was exciting,” 16-year-old Lorenzo Meshek said of when he learned what the night was about to entail. “I thought it was going to be 500 bucks, but they said $1,000, so it was awesome. I thought of an iPod, an iPad, something I need.”
From SEVEN, the group made their way down to the Nicollet Avenue Target location where they met their Timberwolves shopping partner and representatives from SPIRE Federal Credit Union; SPIRE sponsored the event for the first time.
“We’ve been partnered with the Timberwolves for the last three years, and we’ve been really watching the whole Season of Giving and working with these children,” said Dan Stoltz, CEO of SPIRE. “The values of the Timberwolves and their players are in alignment with SPIRE, so we wanted to hop on board with this event and be a part of this great day.”
The groups dispersed into Target, checking items off of the wish lists that the children had compiled at the taco dinner. The lists covered all aspects of holiday shopping, as presents were purchased that were both practical (jackets, snow pants, cell phones) and fun (iPods, Xbox, scooters). Many gifts were purchased for members of foster families.
For players like Love and Nikola Pekovic who have been to the event before, they know how much the kids' faces light up. For first-year Wolves center Greg Stiemsma, it was a new experience to take in.
"I just heard we were shopping with kids; I didn't realize they were getting that type of gift card to go nuts with," Stiemsma said. "It was definitely fun to be part of. It's obviously the season of giving, and when you get a chance to do this stuff it's a lot of fun."
The players not only chaperoned the kids around the store, but they also had words of advice when trying to decide what to buy.
“Are you sure you want this one?” Stiemsma asked the girl who he was accompanying while looking at MP3 players in the electronic section. “This one here has twice the storage.”
Timberwolves President Chris Wright said the Wolves value the opportunity to be part of this event each year. Awaiting adoption, these kids do not get to spend the holidays the way they'd like.
"For me, this event epitomizes this time of year," Wright said. "It's the holidays. There are a lot of people who can't celebrate the holidays ideally the way they would like. Through sponsors like SPIRE, the Roger & Nancy McCabe Foundation, SEVEN the restaurant, we're able to put a package together for 11 children who are up for adoption in this market, who would love to be with their families over the holidays who instead will be with a caregiver. The opportunity to go shopping over the holidays with $1,000 in their pocket with a Minnesota Timberwolves player, it's our way to sort of give back a little bit to the community."
Once a cart (or two, or three) was filled with goods, the group made their way to the checkout; when several kids went over their dollar limit, players stepped up to cover the costs with their own money.
“This is a time of giving, a time of fun, and for some of these kids it’s a tough situation,” Stoltz said. “It’s not only about the gifts, but also the opportunity for hopefully finding a loving family as well.”