EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 28, 2013

Boys and Girls Club basketball team gives back

By Sara Brown

---- — LAWRENCE — Most kids’ only concerns about Christmas is what is going to be under their tree in the morning. However, thanks to the Top Notch Network and the Boys and Girls Club a group of girls learned the true meaning of Christmas.

Top Notch Network Founder and CEO Joanna de Pena’s Boys and Girls basketball team helped raised money for a family in Lawrence who recently lost everything they own because of a fire. They family consisted of a mother and her six kids.

There are 13 girls on Pena’s team and each player was set up with a sponsor. The sponsors came from around the Lawrence community. They are in 5th or 6th grade. They did 100 layups and for each one made, the sponsor paid 25 cents. Once the money was raised they bought presents for the family.

“My team will learn the value of Christmas, and experience the joy in helping others. Another kid in the city of Lawrence gets to enjoy their Christmas with a warm jacket and maybe a nice toy thanks to our teamwork,” Pena said as to why she came up with the idea.

The idea wasn’t totally original. Pena said her high school basketball teacher did something similar for her and her teammates years ago.

“It really made an impact on me,” she said. “I wanted to do the same thing for my girls.”

The girls went to Walmart and bought the family essentials like clothes and silverware as well as some toys.

“They loss everything so we wanted to give them something they would need,” Pena said.

Giving the gifts proved to be an emotional experience.

“The family got all teary eyed and emotional. They kept saying they never expected this. Seeing their smiles made me smile,” Pena said.

It also touched the girls as well.

“One of my players came up to me after we gave the gifts and said she now doesn’t care what she gets for Christmas this year,” Pena said. “She said she was grateful for what she already has. When she said that, it gave me goosebumps. Those are the moments I live for.”