Santa's big helpers make Christmas special for youngsters

It was hard to tell who was having more fun last Saturday afternoon at the Target store in west Eugene

— the 21 youngsters who had been given the opportunity to shop for holiday gifts for their families, or the 21 Duck football players in Santa hats pushing the carts that held those presents.

“This is the best day of my life!” one little boy told his dad as they prepared to join the players for some pre-shopping pizza

This is the second year for the Christmas shopping event, which is organized by the O Heroes program.

“Last year, we had 10 players and 10 kids participate,” said James Harris, Assistant Athletic Director for Student Athlete Development. “But this year, I had so many players who wanted to participate that I had to go back to the donor and ask if he'd donate more.” 

And the donor? Coach Chip Kelly. 

“It was all Coach Kelly's idea,” Harris said. “He bought the pizza and the Santa hats.”

And, said Harris, Kelly also donated the $100 bills that were handed out to each of the children.

Target donated drinks, wrapping paper and bows, and some Churchill High School students helped with the wrapping. But it was Kelly’s generosity that made it all possible, Harris said.

Kelly didn't want to be tagged as the 'behind the scenes hero.'  

“Those guys,” referring to his players, “are the heroes,” he said. “They love doing this. The holidays are all about giving, and those guys give a lot.” 

Kelly watched as the children picked out gifts for their family members. 

“The best part,” he said later, “is that the kids now get to go home to their families and experience the same gift of giving.”

Rita Radostitz is communications director in the UO’s Office of Institutional Equity & Diversity.