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UL Hoop Teams Give Back to Fans

Jets delivered 40 baskets

Photo Provided Members of the Union Local boys and girls basketball teams are shown with the gift baskets they delivered through a service project last week to help give back to the Jets fans throughout the school district who aren’t able to attend the basketball games this winter because of the COVID-19 restrictions surrounding crowd size at high school sporting events. The boys and girls teams delivered 40 baskets, which contained fruit, candy and a commemorative Christmas card, all over the Union Local School District. The event was organized by the boys and girls parents organizations.

MORRISTOWN — One of the chief beliefs of the Christmas season is that it’s better to give than to receive.

The Union Local boys and girls basketball team didn’t wait until Friday to hand out their gifts to their droves of loyal fans, many of whom aren’t able to attend the games this winter because of the guidelines and limitations surrounding COVID-19.

Last Sunday, the boys and girls players met at the high school and then went their separate ways to deliver upwards of 40 gift baskets to Jets fans throughout the school district to show appreciation for the support they’ve received and let the fans, who can’t attend the games in person, that they’re missed.

“I thought it was a great ideas to reach out to as many people as we could during the holidays,” Union Local boys basketball coach Zach Delman said.

Delman and girls head coach Rob Barr were approached by several members of the Union Local boys and girls basketball parent organizations with the generous idea.

According to Delman, Michelle Hess, who has a son in the program and her husband, Jimmy, is also a member of the coaching staff, orchestrated much of the idea.

“Basically, she came up with the idea because she was thinking about all of the people who usually come support our team and the girls team that just can’t come to the games because they don’t have direct family members involved,” Delman said.

The gift baskets the players delivered consisted of items such as fruit, candy and a special Christmas-theme, team picture, taken by Jamie Vinskovich, who has a son and daughter on the varsity basketball teams.

The group of mothers who oversaw the project formulated the list of recipients, who “they felt were deserving because they’re normally in the stands” frequently for the games.

“We have so many people who come, religiously, to every game, home and away, that it’s nice that we found a way to show how much we appreciate them,” Barr said. “The kids really jumped on board and so many of them came out voluntarily (last Sunday) to help deliver the baskets. It shows how much the kids appreciate the support also.”

Each group of players delivered a handful of baskets around numerous communities that comprise the UL school district. Some of those communities included Jacobsburg, Centerville, Belmont, Bethesda, Flushing, New Athens, Morristown, Holloway and even in Barnesville.

“When you start thinking about the Union Local school district, there’s about an hour radius when you consider going from the eastern side near Jacobsburg to out near Holloway,” Delman said.

The Jets players, who were delayed in getting their seasons started because of quarantine issues, followed all of the safety protocols in terms of wearing a mask and keeping their social distance. According to Delman, some of the players were met with tears from the recipients of the baskets. At some houses, though, the players simply left the gift on the porch.

“Some of the people answered their door and were very excited just to see the kids,” Delman said. “I know I, and I am sure Coach Barr did as well, received some very nice calls and texts reaching out to me thanking, but I told them, ‘I can’t take credit. These moms took the initiative and pulled this off.”

The idea actually hit home twice for Delman. Obviously, as the head coach of the boys team, but his grandfather, Tom Freeman, was the recipient of one of the baskets.

“My grandpa has been able to come to the boys games because of me, but he doesn’t have a way into the girls games, and he actually got me involved in watching a lot of basketball by taking me to the girls games when I was young,” Delman said. “Prior to this season, he hasn’t missed many games for either gender.”

Delman never saw the list of who was or wasn’t received a basket. He actually stopped by his grandparents house and was there when his grandfather read the card.

“He had tears in his eyes and became very emotional,” Delman said. “It was really neat to see.”

As the players delivered the baskets, some Jets fans took a moment to explain how they’ve been keeping up with the games since they’re not there. Whether it’s through the media, watching livestream, reaching out to people who are in attendance, the Jets’ seasons are still being monitored closely.

“We just wanted to bring some good news to people at a time when so many need and want that,” Delman said.

While the fans were excited to the players they normally enjoy watching throughout the winter during the week, Delman is also confident the players were happy to see the fans as well.

“The kids are obviously happy to be playing, but I know the (crowd) limitations and all the (COVID-19) stuff is on their mind,” Delman said.

Delman believes both teams benefitted from the community service project.

“There is so much more to high school sports than just basketball or whatever the sport is,” Delman said. “We’re trying to raise these kids to be good people in the hallways (at school) and in the community. We want our kids to have good values, morals and always be thinking about putting other people first. I had a couple of kids mention to me how good it felt to take part in this.

“I am happy and thankful for the moms who came up with the idea because it was a huge success,” Delman continued.

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