As sure as basketball season rolls around this time of year, so does the annual Hurst L.D. Bell boys basketball holiday tradition of helping families in need.
As they have done for many years, head coach Willie Henderson and his Blue Raiders will be delivering gifts and dinner items to two needy families. It’s something Henderson began as a young coach.
“I was doing my student teaching and the coach was providing gifts to custodians at the school. I thought that was really cool,” Henderson said. “Then, when I got into coaching I decided I was going to do something. I have more than I need.”
That was 27 years ago, and it never grows old, Henderson said. When he and his players make their deliveries on Dec. 20, they will bring gifts and a holiday dinner. The families will have their choice of ham or turkey. In addition, Christmas Providers of Hurst will provide a gift box of nonperishable food, and they usually provide a gift card for more shopping after the holidays.
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It all starts with Henderson putting out a small box. Players put money into it which is spent to help provide Christmas.
It just shows you what great hearts they have.
Bell coach Willie Henderson, on his players’ tradition of annual holiday giving
“I remember when I first participated in 2014,” senior Boston Billings said. “Coach put out a shoebox for us. I used my own money and it felt so great. It still feels great.”
This year the Blue Raiders will be aiding a family of four and another of six. Six Stones Ministry also helps with elementary students through their Night of Wonder program.
“It’s a good thing Coach Henderson has put together,” senior Sean Almeida said. “The kids really seem to like it when we go into their home. I grew up looking up to the players. It’s pretty cool to look at those kids’ faces and know that was once me.”
Henderson said the project is made even more special when he thinks of how some of his own players are also in need. Still, they find a way to give and participate.
“It just shows you what great hearts they have,” he said.
Over the years not a single time has the team failed to raise enough money to bring a great holiday.
“The money’s always there,” Henderson said.
Billings said he is considering becoming a coach some day and this is a project he’d like to implement when he does. In fact, he is thinking of bringing up the idea when he gets to college.
“Definitely, I’d see if my college coach would want to do this. It would great if we could get this going,” he said. “It’s great to know there are people who will help others, and I’m glad I can be one of those people.
“And the best feeling is when we get to see the faces.”
Henderson said his heart was warmed recently when he got a call from his daughter in Mississippi. She apparently learned well from her father and is continuing his tradition. She and her boyfriend “adopted” a needy family to provide them with a happy holiday.
“It just puts Christmas in perspective,” Henderson said, adding that his real and basketball families “Will be this as long as we’re on this earth.”