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Jan, 2021

Coastal Outreach Soccer students Christmas shopping

Amid the bustle of holiday shopping before Christmas, the Target in Brunswick transformed twice in one day from a regular store into a place where wishes came true.

A $15,000 donation from Brunswick High School alumnus Darius Slay Jr., who plays defensive back for the Philadelphia Eagles, allowed 73 students who participate in Coastal Outreach Soccer’s after-school programming to pick out their own Christmas gifts during a shopping excursion on Dec. 23.

“This is the first time that he’s done a Christmas shopping event, but he’s a supporter of our programs year-round,” said Shawn Williams, founder and executive director of COS. “We had talked about how could we continue to support the families here in Brunswick and just bring some joy and relief to the stress parents may have been feeling during the holiday season with everything happening with COVID and with the economy.” 

Many parents joined their children for the shopping trip, and Williams said the event allowed them to purchase gifts their children wanted. Otherwise, many weren’t going to able to buy more than basic everyday items for their children this Christmas.

“This was an opportunity for (Slay) and for us as an organization to reach out to the children and families we provide services to and say, ‘We just want to do this for you, we just want to be here to support and help you and bring some joy during the holiday season,’” Williams said.

COS staff, volunteers and families went on two separate shopping trips — one in the morning and one in the evening — to accommodate parents’ work shifts.

“We wanted to make sure we gave families an opportunity to choose the best time that fit within their schedule to be able to come over and to make sure we gave everyone a chance to participate,” Williams said.

They opted to let the students pick out their own gifts, rather than buying for them.

“We felt it was important for us not to go and buy items and give to the children,” Williams said. “We found that it is more impactful, and it brings more joy and happiness for the family to do that themselves and to give kids the opportunity to pick out something they want.”  

Slay has consistently supported Coastal Outreach Soccer and local families through food distributions and other donations.

“He’s always thinking about our families,” Williams said. “And it’s not just Darius thinking about our families.”

Numerous donors contributed to the program’s fundraising efforts in 2020 and to other initiatives that supported families through the tough year.

“We were able to support them beyond soccer, whether it was serving hot meals, food boxes or in this case this awesome opportunity for them to shop,” Williams said.

The Target store emanated pure joy for a couple of hours that day, as more than 100 excited shoppers descended upon its aisles in search of the perfect Christmas gift.

“It was organized chaos, as one of our volunteers described it,” Williams said. “It was amazing just to walk around the store and see the kids, the parents and everyone laughing and having fun and enjoying that experience.”

The donation showcased how community members can have a positive impact on each others’ lives, Williams said.

“We just have to be willing to give,” he said. “… Our organization is here to serve our community in the best way that we possibly can, to make sure that the things that we’re doing are impactful for our families and will be able to move our community forward in a manner that everybody benefits from the services that we are providing.”