Grain Valley High School girls basketball coach Randy Draper is always looking for an edge.

Grain Valley High School girls basketball coach Randy Draper is always looking for an edge.

Last year, he discovered a way his team could bond while helping to make the holiday season a bit merrier for needy Grain Valley residents.

“I was talking with the girls last year and asked them what they thought about going Christmas shopping and adopting a family and giving them the gifts,” Draper said last week before his team boarded a school bus and drove to the Blue Springs Target store off Adams Dairy Parkway.

“The girls loved the idea, I mean, they loved it. In fact, a couple of the seniors who wrote down their favorite memory of the season said that was the most special thing they did as a member of the basketball team. Now, that’s saying something.”
While they shopped for an adopted family in 2011, they went to Target with nearly $340 and a list of ideas for a new mission, helping the Grain Valley Community Service League fill its coffers for a variety of families in need.

“We told the girls that this year, we’re shopping for families, and to take that into consideration when they’re picking out their gifts,” Draper said.

He divided the freshmen, junior varsity and varsity teams into three groups and off they went.

“Let’s get this job done!” cried out one group leader as they headed to the clearance clothing area.

“What’s 25 percent of $26?” asked another Eagles player as the girls made sure they could get the most bang for their buck.

“Oh, an Elmo sweater,” came a voice from the back of the group, “we have to get an Elmo sweater.”

Her teammates agreed, and the sweater was placed in the cart.

Gloves, sox, board games, a grill, a child’s futon/chair and an outdoor grill were some of the highlight items Draper saw as they approached the cash register.

“The coaches and all the girls each put in enough money that the three groups had a little over $100 to spend,” said Draper, who was about to receive a Christmas surprise from Jamie Ford, Target’s human resources manager.

As the Eagles were waiting in line to check out, Ford presented Draper with a $100 gift card.

“Well, I guess we all found out there is a Santa Claus,” Draper said as he asked the girls to gather around. “We just got a $100 card from Target, so each group has another $33 to spend.”

They were off in a flash, as Draper grinned from ear to ear.

“This is a great team-bonding experience,” Draper said. “The girls love this. They were asking about it right after school started.”

Sophomore guard Aerreon Parker called the shopping spree a learning experience.

“There are people who don’t have anything, and this is our way to make Christmas special,” Parker said. “When you go on something like this you learn a lot about your teammates. And I learned I’ve got some great teammates who really care about each other and people in our community who don’t have much.”

Seniors Rachel Reddell and Cory Henson served as captains for their group, and they took their roles seriously.

“This is a lot of fun, but want to make sure we get the most gifts for the amount of money we spend,” Reddell said. “It’s a great bonding experience and a great team experience. We all want to try to outdo the other groups and get the most stuff in our shopping cart.”

While Darby Scharfenkamp totaled each item on the calculator on her cell phone, the girls rushed from department to department.

“We’re looking for the best deals,” Henson said. “We found these gloves for $3. We’re having fun, bonding as a team and helping people in our community. Does it get any better than this?”

The final tally included three overflowing shopping carts and just $6 and some change left from their good deed.

“It just makes you feel good to see the girls do something like this,” said Ford, as a crowd of grinning shoppers gathered around the Eagles after they found out what the team was doing for its community. “This is a time of year where there is so much stress, and it’s just nice to see something like this – something that puts a smile on your face.”