Nick Richardson and Adam Woods aren’t trying to change the world.

Nick Richardson and Adam Woods aren’t trying to change the world.

The two William Chrisman High School basketball standouts just want to make a difference in their hometown.

Independence is a lot better off because of Richardson and Woods, who are keeping an eye on a special statistic during this basketball season.

It has nothing to do with wins or losses – points, rebounds or steals.

No, this statistic deals with something much more important.

“We’re keeping track of the number of food items fans put in our collection barrel before each home basketball game,” said Woods, who teamed with his buddy to start the LIVE TO FEED program.

They are collecting non-perishable food items throughout this basketball season at Chrisman and also at the Apple Market store located just south of the high school on 24 Highway, and so far their numbers are outstanding.

“We just totaled everything,” Richardson said after a recent home game against Winnetonka, “and we’re up to 800 food items.

“And they’re good food items like macaroni and cheese, cereal, soup and good vegetables – not like beets and sauerkraut.”

The two youngsters make a weekly trip to Apple Market to check on that barrel, and visit before each home game wondering what will be deposited that game night.

“We really care about basketball and love playing for a coach like John Vickers and for our fans,” Richardson said, “but we also get pretty pumped up to see how many canned items or boxes of food are left in the barrel.

“So far, we haven’t been disappointed. There’s been food in there every time we’ve checked.”

The Bears basketball team has struggled recently, suffering through a winless 2009-2010 season. But Chrisman has rebounded this year and already has claimed two big victories.

Vickers said you don’t need a scoreboard to know that Woods and Richardson are winners.

“You want to talk about a couple of remarkable young men, you can talk about Nick and Adam,” Vickers said.

“Every month the Independence School District has a word of the month. In October, the word was ‘INTEGRITY,’ and a student from our high school was honored for having great integrity.”

The student was Richardson.

The teacher who claimed the honor was Vickers.

“That was pretty special,” Richardson said, “but to share it with someone you respect and admire as much as I respect and admire Coach Vickers made it even more special.”

This month’s word is “CITIZENSHIP.”

And the Chrisman winner is Woods.

“It’s a real honor,” Woods said when asked about joining Vickers and Richardson in the real-world winner’s circle. “There’s so much more to life than basketball. We want to have a great basketball season, and we’re doing all right so far – but we also want to make a difference in the community.”

When Woods and Richardson heard that the Salvation Army food pantry on Truman Road was empty, they got together and threw some ideas around.

The young philanthropists started a program called LIVE TO FEED, following a meeting with the Character Counsel of Independence.

They met with Salvation Army officials, who donated the barrels that now sit in the Chrisman lobby outside of the gymnasium and the Apple Market store.

“How cool is that?” Vickers said. “It was all their idea. I’m not surprised they did it, but just how amazing is it that, two young guys hear about the food pantry being empty and they go out and decide to do something about it?”

Philanthropy is nothing new at Chrisman.

Two years ago, standout Jon Ekey, now playing basketball at Illinois State University, started a program where fans could donate school supplies to underprivileged children in the Independence School District.

“We have some great kids here at Chrisman,” activities director Dan Ogle said. “Jon has his program, and now Adam and Nick are making a real impact right here in our community.

“You know, I think a lot of that goes with their coach, John Vickers. He doesn’t just teach basketball, he teaches the young men on his team great life lessons. And all those young men come from great, great families.

“It’s a cliché, but there are a lot of ways to win without looking at the final score of a game, and we’re experiencing that with Nick and Adam.”

When Woods and Richardson joined the Character Counsel, they could have become a part of many projects.

“The Character Counsel includes kids from Truman and Chrisman, and we talk about ways to help the community – you know, different community activities that make Independence a better place,” Richardson said.

Added Woods: “One project was cleaning up a park. That’s important, but then we heard about the Salvation Army food pantry closing down, and at this time of year especially, we thought it was more important help people get food.

“We have the support of our coach and our administration and Mr. Ogle. It’s kind of exciting to see how much food we can contribute.”

Ironically, the idea came to the young men when they were eating lunch.

“We’re eating, and we kind of look at each other,” Woods said, “and it’s like, ‘We’ve got this great meal, and people in our hometown are going hungry.’ That’s when we decided to do something.”

Woods and Richardson personify those monthly school themes.

“We can’t save the world, we know that,” Richardson said, “but we can at least help some people who don’t have any food put a meal on the table for their family.

“And that feels pretty good.”

If an individual business would like to help Nick and Adam’s LIVE TO FEED program, give Coach John Vickers or Dan Ogle a call at 521-5355 and let them know how their story served as an inspiration this  holiday season.