Kevin Durant gives presents to kids
NICHOLS HILLS, Okla. -- Kevin Durant remembers how his Christmases as a kid always had a degree of uncertainty of whether there would be presents under the tree.
Now that he's an NBA All-Star and a multimillionaire, he wants to make the holidays a little bit brighter for children in need.
Durant, the NBA's scoring leader, chose Oklahoma City-based Citizens Caring for Children as the recipient of his annual "Kevin's Christmas" charity event.
He surprised about 120 foster children Saturday with a visit and gifts, including an iPod shuffle, Thunder-themed Skullcandy headphones and Nike gear.
"I just wanted them to feel special on Christmas," Durant said. "As a kid, you really don't know the significance of what Christmas really means except for getting gifts and being joyous around this time. So, I want them to feel special. Hopefully, this is something that they're always going to remember for the rest of their lives.
"I'm happy to say I was a part of that."
Durant also gave the organization a flat-screen television, an Xbox 360, a Wii and video games that the children can play in their activity center. It'll replace a failing 13-inch TV.
"They really are a lot of times forgotten during the holidays," said Amy Mitchell, the agency's executive director. "We all go home and spend time with our families and they're separated from theirs, so it's so special that they took the time to do this for these kids."
After a pizza party and some free time for the kids to shoot hoops, Durant called each child up individually to hand out a bookbag filled with gifts that will be among the few received by some of the children.
Citizens Caring for Children also holds a toy drive to ensure each child gets a gift, but some live in group homes and don't have foster families to provide for them.
"All of them are living without their families, so being able to spend time with somebody like Kevin Durant during the holidays is so special to them. I think it makes being away from their families a little bit easier," Mitchell said. "It's still hard. But to know that somebody like him takes the time out of his schedule to be with them, to show them that he cares and that they're special really means a lot."
Durant signed a five-year, $85 million contract extension this summer after becoming the NBA's youngest scoring champion ever and leading Oklahoma City to its first playoff appearance. But he didn't always have money.
"My mom surprised me and my brother a lot. She'd always say we weren't going to have a Christmas because we couldn't afford it, but then she would come back and [we would] wake up on Christmas day with a lot of gifts," Durant said.
"I had a lot of great Christmases and it's a blessing to try to do that and give back to the younger kids."
Last year, Durant took three young boys on a shopping spree at the mall and coordinated a "Giving Tree" event for 100 children in need. The previous year, he distributed coats, gloves, hats and other items to about 60 children at an inner-city after-school program.
During his rookie year in Seattle, he took 26 needy children on a shopping spree and then took them to dinner.
"I always look forward to it. It's something new, something bigger every year that I try to do," Durant said. "My mom did a good job of coordinating everything and coming up with great ideas. Everything went right as planned, and everything's perfect right now.
"I'm excited, I'm happy and hopefully we can continue to just do this every year and put smiles on kids' faces."
"For us to give back to the less fortunate is obviously a blessing. ... Growing up, I didn't see NBA players. I didn't get to interact with them," Durant said. "For me to provide something that I didn't have growing up means a lot to me. I'm just happy I've got this opportunity, and I'm having fun."
In addition to the toy drive, Citizens Caring for Children is also trying to gather donations of new coats, pajamas and other clothing in addition to duffel bags that they can distribute to children.
Those will serve the kids' everyday needs, now that Durant has helped out with the holidays.
"Kevin's the Santa this year," Mitchell said. "He's a very tall Santa."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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