Wolves Join Kids in Holiday Shopping Spree

Lindsey Young
Wolves Writer

Even professional basketball players can take some quality shopping advice once in awhile. "I was just trying to teach him how to shop for girls," said Kassidy of Jonny Flynn. Kassidy, 12, was one of several school-age children who received the gift of a $500 shopping spree at Target. The kids were selected by the Minnesota Adoption Resource Network.

"We look forward to this every year," stated MARN representative Lorenzo Davis. "The Timberwolves do such a wonderful job of not only playing well but also supporting the community and supporting kids that are needing adoptive families." All of the kids involved in the Holiday Shopping are currently part of Minnesota's waiting children, which means that they are all without permanent homes, most of them in a foster care situation.

MARN partners with the Minnesota Department of Human Services to help these children find homes. As of September 21, 2009, there were 1,154 children under state guardianship. Out of the 481 kids who are categorized as needing immediate placement, 38 percent are 12 to 18 years old. In addition, 55 percent are siblings who need to be adopted together.

The kids gathered Thursday afternoon at The Melting Pot downtown, where Timberwolves President Chris Wright met them to announce the surprise. Not only would each child be given the $500 spree, but they would each be paired with a Timberwolves player during the hour of Christmas shopping frenzy. The reaction of the children--as always--was one for the books. "Some of the faces are stone-cold shocking," laughed Davis.

Flynn commented, "I wish I could have done this as a kid. Just go into a store and get whatever I wanted. It's good to see them having a good time, and I'm having a good time too." Flynn was paired up to help Kassidy with her shopping. Or, as Kassidy will tell you, the other way around. "I was teaching him a couple things," said Kassidy. "So he can shop for his friends. And he if he had a girlfriend, he would probably want to shop for her during Christmas."

The kids involved in the event ranged from seven to 16 years old. Dan, 16, and Donte paired up with Ramon Sessions and exchanged fashion tips. "Dan's ready," said Sessions. "He's got the kicks going, lookin' real urban." And Donte? "Donte's got style. He went with the hat -- a little different than when I would wear, but hey -- that's his style."

When asked what he was getting at these kids' age, Sessions didn't hesitate. "Same kind of gifts they're picking out. We didn't have the PSP, so I was probably getting a Nintendo, Super Nintendo, the old Playstation. The electronics are where it's at when you're a kid." In fact, chaos ensued for the first part of the shopping trip as players, kids, and shopping carts clogged the aisles to seek out iPods, DSIs, and video games.

Although the kids were able to choose recreational gifts they would not have otherwise received, chaperones made sure that they also purchased necessities such as clothing and winter outerwear. Nathan Jawai spent the afternoon with Isaac, age 9. Isaac and his two siblings are part of a foster care situation. They have also gone through a few "disruptions," which means that an adoptive process started but the parents backed out.

Jawai had fun shopping with Isaac and helping him pick out everything from a battery-operated dinosaur to a winter coat and snow pants. When Isaac guessed that Jawai wore size ten shoes, the 7'0" player laughed and replied, "Nope. Fifteen." "Whoa," replied Isaac. "You're huge!"

Ryan Gomes was paired with one of the brother/sister groups at the event. Yuli, age 9, was excited to show off the Barbie toys she had picked out. "I found clothes and toys, and Ryan helped me and my brother find a DSI, and DSI games, and an iPod," she explained. Ryan laughed good-naturedly as Yuli's older brother questioned the prices of two remote-control cars he was choosing between. "The kid knows how to bargain," Gomes said. "His sister does a good job, too."

Damien Wilkins was also partnered with a sibling group, brothers that are nine and ten years old. When Hunter spent his allotment faster than his brother, Wilkins had an answer. "Mathew's respecting the recession," he explained. "He's budgeting."

Davis expressed extreme gratitude for the Timberwolves organization and their willingness to participate in the Holiday Shopping event every year. "The biggest thing that they give our kids is commitment. For the most part, [the kids] are used to adults that don't follow through with what they promise or say they'll do," Davis explained. "They also give them a little camaraderie too, because during the holiday season it's difficult when they don't have any parents to talk to or any siblings to communicate with, so those two things are the two biggest things they do for us."

Although having a good time watching the kids shop, the players realized that the situation was bittersweet. "We're here to help these kids out," stated Gomes. "They're more excited about going and getting Christmas gifts, but we know that we're serving. We're trying to help them find a home -- a steady home."

In little over an hour all of the kids had spent their $500, and the players even looked a little worn out. Was the trip a success? "I can't even keep track," expressed Wilkins. "They got it all!"

For more information on the FastBreak Foundation as well as the Operation Minnesota Heroes Month, visit the FastBreak Foundation info on the Timberwolves Web site.