Athletes from the McNary High School boys varsity basketball scour the aisles of Target looking for gifts to deliver to a local family they adopted for the Christmas holiday. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

When they’re on the court, the young men of the McNary High School varsity basketball team focus on small things: finding the right lane at the right time, the positions of their opponents, passing to an open post, etc.

On Tuesday, Dec. 20, the team stepped away from the courts and gathered in the aisles of the Keizer Station Target for a look at the big picture, and it had nothing to do with basketball.

Instead of marking up with opponents, the Celts divided forces to tackle Christmas lists for a Keizer family struggling to make ends meet. Their first stop: toys.

“I think it’s pretty cool to meet a family that doesn’t have much and realizing that not everyone gets a full Christmas,” said Justin Burgess, a McNary senior and one of three leaders on the project with Garren Robinett and Dylan McHugh. “We have a list for them. Three gifts that they each picked. They all want mittens and three or four of them want R/C cars.”

The team, led by the seniors, adopted a local family intent on making their holiday brighter with some leftover money from last season’s fundraising projects.

“Basketball is important, but you get to see those things that are even more important and be involved in our community and get acquainted with everybody,” McHugh said.

While picking out gifts for the family with six children provided logistical challenges in the Target aisles, Robinett was even more excited to deliver them.

“I’m excited to see their reactions and for them to know that we’re taking care of them, it’s a reminder of how much I have,” he said.

All three were looking forward helping raise funds to assure the adopt-a-family program would continue next year.

McNary Head Coach Ryan Kirch instituted the program alongside new offense and defense strategies when he joined McNary earlier this year.

“We certainly want to win as many games as possible, but that’s a secondary goal. When kids leave our program as seniors, we want them to be young men of high character,” Kirch said.