Communities always have rallied behind their high school athletics.
So when teams decide to give back, it provides a different sense of pride for everyone involved.
There are several examples in the Muskingum Valley, including volleyball teams hosting Volley for the Cure to help fight breast cancer or Kickin’ for Coach to help Philo soccer coach Matt Brown in his battle with cancer.
During the holiday season, there has been an annual staple for 22 years: Christmas on the Hill at Rosecrans.
Todd Rock, the school’s boys basketball coach, started the event to provide gifts for families in need. Many current athletes and students participated. But having alumni return added another special element to the day.
“We had former players come back to play some pick-up games then help give out gifts,” Rock said. “A lot of work goes into it, but seeing the smiles and tears in parents’ eyes makes it worth it. Those reasons are why so many alumni tell me to make sure this never ends.”
There was plenty of joy Tuesday as almost 80 youth opened presents with their families at Rogge Gymnasium.
Children ripped through the paper to find basketballs, Hot Wheel cars or dolls. Some took their bikes for their first rides through the gymnasium.
Santa Claus made his rounds, shaking kids’ hands and helping them open gifts. His presence put smiles on many faces.
Seeing the children take in the moment and play without a care in the world was an amazing feeling.
Those moments make mothers such as Ericka Walker grateful.
“I wasn’t expecting all of this. It’s overwhelming,” she said. “It’s very heartfelt and makes you a little emotional. When families do struggle, having people step in to make it a great Christmas makes myself and other really appreciate what they do.”
Events such as this put sports in perspective. Wins and losses are just numbers. Practice can be tough or seem pointless, but the camaraderie built in those moments is an aspect many miss when their playing days are done.
Teams truly become families during the season and is another part of why former players such as Zack Hill find time to return to the hill.
“It’s a bonding experience. You get to come back and get together with friends,” he said. “It’s fun to watch all these kids open gifts and play with their new toys. It really makes the rest of your day better knowing you helped others out.”
Those words define Christmas on the Hill. It’s about spending time with family and friends, making the holidays memorable for others.
Events such as these remind us of how thankful we should be during the holidays.
I make a simple request to our readers: make the most of Christmas and remember it is better to give than receive.