HUDSONVILLE, Mich. — Even though they can't hit the court right now due to the pandemic, the Hudsonville girls basketball team is still making a big difference in the community.
After Meijer donated $5,000 for 50 families in need throughout the community and members of Fit Body Boot Camp donated gifts, local law enforcement and the team helped hand them all out.
"We say FAMILY and it means Forget About Me I Love You," said Hudsonville girls basketball coach, Casey Glass, "we talk about that all the time, about how we need to focus on other people and not ourselves. This is just a way for us to give back to those in our community."
Thanks to those local businesses and community members, over 500 kids in West Michigan are getting gifts this holiday season, and not only in Hudsonville.
"We have nine facilities across West Michigan and we were able to raise over $150,000 in one months time," said Josiah VandyBogurt, facility leader for Hudsonville Fit Body Boot Camp.
Things have drastically changed this holiday season due to the pandemic and things like 'Shop with a Cop' are non-existent, but the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department is still heavily involved.
"We look forward to it every year," said Sgt. Ryan DeVries of the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office, "we're all excited for what Christmas brings and how we're able to give back, and we didn't want to miss it this year with everything going on."
The police officers, local fire fighters, EMTs, school representatives and the girls basketball team all distributed the gifts on Wednesday night and were able to see a lot of smiling kids and families.
"It's more than basketball in life," said sophomore forward, Maddie Petroelje, "it's a great opportunity to get out here and interact with the community."
It's the first time the basketball players have seen each other in weeks, after the most recent COVID-19 restrictions in the state of Michigan.
"My favorite part is being able to smile again with people, instead of being stuck online or in your home," added junior Eva Joldersma.
In a tough time for everyone, including the basketball players with their season on hold, they're reminded once again what's really important this time of year.
"It's just great to see smiles on their faces and to know that we're a part of the reason why," Petroelje said.
Year after year, few teams do more for their community than the Hudsonville girls basketball program. Head coach Casey Glass wanted to make sure the opportunity wasn't lost, even during the pandemic.
"With sports not being able to be played right now, it's important that we do as much as we can to try to get them out and show them what it's really about," he said.
"It's not always about basketball all the time, and this is just one of the events that goes to show that," Glass continued.