Lillard gives back with holiday cheer

Boys and Girls Club benefits from generosity

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers writer

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PORTLAND — First Damian Lillard hit a game-winner in Detroit on Sunday. Then he hit another in Cleveland on Tuesday and he scored 36 points in Minnesota on Wednesday.

The highlight of the rising star's week came on Thursday, off the floor and wrapped in the holiday spirit.

It was being able to give a Christmas surprise to 30 lucky kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Portland at the Toys 'R Us in Jantzen Beach on Thursday night.

"Definitely, this is the highlight of the week because of the time of year it is," said Lillard. "Some people aren't fortunate to get Christmas presents and have a Christmas tree and a bunch of family around them. Just the fact that I could give them something close to that with this trip means everything to me."

Nobody came to Lillard with the idea or suggested he should do it. It's not just something that Lillard thought of this year, either. Growing up in a tough Oakland neighborhood of Brookfield, Lillard always wanted to be able help those less fortunate if he ever got the chance.

And now, he does.

"Growing up in the neighborhood I didn't have this type of stuff. I always knew if I had a chance to do it then I would want to see this happen. Playing basketball, that's nothing compared to stuff like this when you're in position to do it."

For the Boys and Girls Club, having someone of Lillard's stature being involved and giving back to the community helps them do their jobs of instilling values in their kids.

"For them to be able to have someone that they see all the time, someone that they look up to and see them giving back and for them to be able to be a part of that, that's huge," said Erin Cunningham, Vice President of Programs for the Boys and Girls Club of Portland.

"It makes a huge difference for the kids and it makes our job a lot easier in explaining why giving back is so important and how it builds community. That he's willing to do this will speak volumes to the kids for a long time," she said.

Lillard grew up going to the Boys and Girls club with his family, his cousins. On Thursday it was no different as his family was with him, just as they are at the Moda Center on a game night.

"They've been around my whole life so they know how important this is," Lillard said. "It's not only important to me, it's important to them. If it wasn't important to them they could have done anything else with their day.

"But they decided to be here, I think that just shows it's not only important to me but they value the same things I value."