James Burns: Golden Valley girls spread Christmas joy to Merced kids

James Burns

Becky Morris traced her way through the Target toy department, looking for a gift for a special someone she'll probably never meet.

Or talk to.

The Golden Valley senior stopped every so often to play with gadgets and gizmos, pressing buttons and moving parts.

It was like she was 5 again.

There were Barbie princesses and mermaids, tricky Transformers, finger skateboards, board games and sleek Hot Wheels.

"I was tempted to buy them all," said Morris, a 5-foot-9 center with the Golden Valley girls varsity basketball team.

And then she saw it...

A toy big-rig truck. Blue and black. With a gas tanker and meaty wheels.

The perfect gift for a special someone she'll probably never meet or talk to.

"I don't know about you, but I think toy trucks are a lot of fun," Morris said. "I like playing with trucks.

"Any little kid can spend an hour or two playing with a truck like this, pushing it around the house on their knees.

"I thought it was cool. I wanted to open it myself -- that's why I picked it up."

Porsha Grayson was hit by the same sense of nostalgia.

She picked the toy her brothers would never let her touch as a child: a military island, complete with soldiers, miniature guns and a volcano.

"The only thing I could picture was a smile on a little kid's face," Grayson said. "The toy was big."

Like Morris, Grayson won't ever know how big or bright that smile will be this Christmas morning.

She'll probably never meet her special someone.

And that's OK.

Morris, Grayson and the Golden Valley and Clovis East basketball programs don't need that kind of satisfaction.

The joy, they say, is in the act of giving -- helping those less fortunate.

The two programs continued their long-standing holiday tradition last week, filling sacks with donated toys for the thousands of at-need children around Merced County.

The Merced City Fire Department calls it "Toys for Tots," a volunteer-driven effort to bring Christmas cheer to an estimated 1,500 children.

First-year Golden Valley girls basketball coach Chris Tuft took it a step further, calling the philanthropy a civic duty.

The girls, well, they simply chalked it up to one of basketball's oldest staples: making the extra pass.

"My personal standpoint, the world is a little bigger than all of us," Tuft said. "And these girls need to understand that we're part of a community, and they need to show that we're playing more than just basketball.

"There's more to life than playing games."

If last week's effort was any indication...

They get it.

The Merced City Fire Department, which organizes the toy drive, estimates the Golden Valley-Clovis East game generated about 100 toys.

Pricey toys, too.

While the team was asked to spend at least $5, Tuft watched in amazement as his girls dropped $15-20 gifts into the bag.

"There's something special about this time of year," Captain Larry Fister said. "There's magic in giving back.

"When you do good things, good things come back to you."

Not that Morris, Grayson or any of their teammates care much about atta-girls.

Remember, their reward is in making the extra pass -- and it's arguably the biggest assist they'll make this season.

"I don't think you can put a price on somebody's happiness," Grayson said. "You feel the joy when you can help somebody else out the way we are."

Said Morris: "I think when you're blessed with all the things that you want and more, you can at least give a little back.

"It's one time out of the year to do a little bit of good for somebody else."

In other words...

Merry Christmas.

From: A special someone you'll probably never meet or talk to.

James Burns is sports editor of the Sun-Star. He can be reached at