OSWEGO — The Oswego High School girls basketball program delivered an assist to area families in need this holiday season.

The Buccaneers varsity and junior varsity teams recently rejuvenated their “Hoop Shoot for the Holiday,” fundraising tradition to help provide Christmas gifts, food, clothing, and other essential items to be donated around the district.

Oswego players and coaches worked to gather donations, shop for the requested gifts and other personal items, wrapped the presents together, and delivered them to local families all over the course of the last two weeks in attempts to brighten the season for all in the district.

“It’s honoring to play a part in this,” said Allyson Bruns, a junior co-captain for the Oswego varsity squad. “I remember doing it our freshman year, we take a lot of pride in being able to shop for these children with the money we fundraise ourselves, and to deliver them to their houses, it’s a very heartwarming thing and we really appreciate the opportunity to help the children in need.”

The program has held its holiday fundraiser in some capacity for much of the past decade but was unable to do so last year while being restricted from gathering due to COVID-19 concerns.

The return this season was among the most successful outings to date raising more than $2,000 to donate toward the cause. They also expanded the impact by adding food and essential goods to the list of Christmas gifts.

“It gives our players a better understanding of what’s actually going on in homes right near them,” said Oswego varsity girls basketball coach, Joseph Babcock. “I don’t think a lot of kids realize how lucky they are, and hopefully this will bring a better perspective and warm their hearts a little bit with what they’re doing to help other families.”

The ritual starts by players on each team seeking pledges for a free-throw shooting contest, either per foul shot made or a flat donation, and gathering for a joint practice that ended with each player taking 100 shots from the foul line.

Once the money was collected, the varsity and JV teams shopped for the items together, wrapped the presents at Steamers Bar and Grill, and then delivered them to the doorsteps of area homes.

“I really enjoy doing it, knowing we’re helping a bunch of families out,” said Oswego junior and varsity co-captain, Sophia Babcock. “It’s a fun thing for us to do to bond with the team, too.”

Oswego JV coach Ryan Lavner, who is a physical education teacher at elementary schools in the district, helped coordinate the fundraising by first speaking to administration at Charles E. Riley School in Oswego. He then expanded that reach to help families from all Oswego elementary schools and the junior-high building.

Lavner has had multiple talks with the team about the importance of giving back locally in recent weeks. The day after a recent loss, he asked players if they went home and slept on a bed afterward, and when all hands were raised, he illustrated how that isn’t the case for everyone in the community, attempting to provide perspective leading into the fundraiser.

“Family, friends, health, all those things we can sometime take for granted, it’s great to have something like this to reinforce those moments to be really appreciative, especially during this time of year,” Lavner said.

Lavner also arranged for the JV team to donate time at a bell-ringing station for the Salvation Army earlier this month.

“It was really good vibes and we just hoped that by standing out there we could put some smile on people’s faces, make their day while they’re walking in and out,” Lavner said. “That’s what it was all about for us.”

Players for each team mingle and bond throughout the process for an unintended benefit to those taking part. The atmosphere surrounding the activities is festive and uplifting, starting with holiday music blaring from the speakers to begin the free-throw shooting portion.

“There were times I would mess up a free throw or get in a stretch where I wasn’t shooting very well, and my teammates were around my trying to encourage me, giving me tips,” Bruns said. “That’s just big because it’s important to be on a team that’s like a family and that helps us bond.”

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