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Posted on Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 5:45 a.m.

Local high school sports teams, police get in holiday spirit through Magic of Christmas foundation

By Pete Cunningham


Through the Magic of Christmas-Adopt a Family Foundation, area police departments have been delivering presents, and smiles, since 1996.

Photo courtesy of Debbie Williams-Hoak

The Pioneer High School boys basketball team has been getting into the holiday spirit of late.

Head coach Rex Stanczak was listening to the Michigan Insider on Sports Talk 1050 AM WTKA during its annual Christmas charity drive last month and decided not every dollar of the booster club’s funds should go toward uniforms and team meals.

Stanczak called the radio station and adopted a child for Christmas on behalf of the team.

Stanczak was given a Christmas list of a 12-year old boy in the area and his players and booster club parents then went Christmas shopping for him. It cost the team $125 from its booster club funds, but it’s money well spent according to Stanczak.

“Fortunately, I have a great group of parents and kids right now that share that desire to help others,” Stanczak said. “The guys really had a good time with it and put a lot of thought into doing the Christmas shopping for this young man.”

Stanczak and his team aren’t stopping at buying gifts. Stanczak is hoping to get in contact with the family that his team helped so the boy can come to the Pioneer home games whenever he wants.

“There are certain confidentiality things we have to get through, but if the family is open to it, we’d love to have the young man at our games on the house,” Stanczak said.


Debbie Williams-Hoak, far left, and officers with the Ann Arbor Police Department helped deliver a paddy-wagon full of presents during last year's Magic of Christmas-Adopt a Family drive.

Photo courtesy of Debbie Williams-Hoak

The annual gift drive is part of Saline High School golf coach Debbie Williams-Hoak’s Magic of Christmas-Adopt a Family foundation. Partnered with the Ann Arbor, Chelsea, and Saline police departments and Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department, the program helps bring the holiday spirit to families in need in the area.

Williams-Hoak’s foundation identifies children in need in the area by working with area schools, churches, foster care, hospitals and other agencies. Christmas lists are then compiled and contributors shop for gifts for the children. Williams-Hoak said this year the program helped 527 children in 185 families and spent on average between $100-$125 on each child.

The Pioneer boys basketball team isn’t the only team that got into the spirit. Pioneer's girls golf, girls hockey and girls basketball teams helped shop and wrap gifts this year. Eight teams at Saline High School participated, the Huron High School boys basketball program adopted 11 children and the Lincoln High School athletic department adopted 12. Williams-Hoak also noted that the University of Michigan athletic department is a large contributor as well.

“There’s so much participation from area teams, it’s really grown trememendously since it started,” said Williams-Hoak who started the program in 1996.

Now that all of the gifts have been bought and wrapped for the area families, the extra bit of pageantry is the final step as uniformed police officers will hand-deliver all of the gifts.

"It's really great to see the look on these kids' faces when the police officers deliver the presents," Williams-Hoak said. "It's really special."

Merry Rex-Mas


Pioneer High School boys basketball coach Rex Stanczak, pictured above with the gifts his team bought for an area child in need for Christmas.

In addition to participating in the Magic of Christmas-Adopt a Family program, the Pioneer basketball team will be serving breakfast to the homeless at the Alpha House in Ann Arbor the mornings of Dec. 27th and 28th.

The Pioneers are playing in the Chelsea High School Christmas Tournament those days, but with school out of session due to holiday break Stanczak sees it as a win-win.

“We’ve formed a relationship with Salvation Army and other organizations through the years and everyone seems to really get into it,” Stanczak said. “Plus, on these game days when we don’t have school, it’s good to wake the kids up and get their juices flowing so they’re not sitting around all day."

Pete Cunningham covers sports for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.



Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 12:54 a.m.

Love it when coaches lead by example and expose their players to projects like this.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 3:59 p.m.

Congratulations to the coaches for teaching their players more than just how to play a game. It is great to see this type of participation by young men and women.