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For members of the Northeast Mississippi Community College’s softball program over the holiday break, the focus was not on the diamond but Prentiss County as members of the Lady Tiger softball team took time out to give back to those less fortunate.
As with tradition, members of the Lady Tiger softball team took part in the annual Breakfast with Santa held at the community center at Booneville City Park, spent a day at assisted living and mental health complexes sharing joy and singing Christmas carols and adopted a family for the holidays.
One new addition to the holiday spirit was members of the softball team build a float to place in the City of Booneville’s Christmas parade.
In just over a year, the Northeast softball team has joined with the Make-A-Wish Foundation in making a three-year-old’s wish come true of having a playhouse, adopted two families for the holidays, spent time in assisted living and mental health facilities singing Christmas carols, held a StrikeOut Cancer doubleheader against rival Itawamba Community College, participated in the Racin’ Round Booneville/Make-A-Wish Foundation softball tournament and organized the inaugural David Carnell softball tournament.
"It is another way for our kids to give back," said Northeast head softball coach Jody Long. "We want kids to get involved at an early age and want them to work hard, set goals and attain those goals."
During the 2009 Breakfast with Santa, the softball team served nearly 300 people but that number almost doubled during the 2010 event and the Lady Tigers saw almost 550 participants in the Breakfast with Santa come through the doors with over 200 children attending the event.
Long did not get out of duties at the Breakfast with Santa event as the veteran mentor was busy in the kitchen cooking pancakes for those in attendance. While Long was busy in the kitchen, the Lady Tigers shared some of the responsibility with Santa and Mrs. Claus in helping to assist children with finding gifts and fitting them for a coat.
The Lady Tigers even treated the children to some Christmas carols to help pass the time.
That was not the only time the Lady Tigers loosened their vocal cords during the holidays as the team also carried on an annual tradition of traveling to assisted living and mental health centers to bring a little joy to the residents.
“It’s always a special time,” Long said. “The residents have formed a special relationship with our players.”
Northeast also formed a special bond with one local family as the Lady Tigers carried on the tradition of adopting a family for Christmas. For the tenth time in 11 years and the twelfth time overall, the Lady Tigers sought out a local family to bring Christmas cheer to.
In 2007, the Lady Tigers joined with Kay Bain of WTVA's "Kay Bain Saturday Mornin' Show" as she helped to blanket Prentiss County and provide warm blankets for those needing them.
Northeast provided toys for the children along with presents for the parents and clothing to make sure the family was warm through the holidays season.
“It teaches them that if you do those things, it gives you a better understanding of what it is like to be in that situation,” Long said. “We may not get the things that we want, but there are people out there that are not getting the things they need.”
One new twist to the holiday spirit was the local softball team entering the City of Booneville Christmas parade.
The idea for a Christmas float arose out of a friendly competition during fall scrimmage to make the scrimmages more interesting and competitive and the float also served as a team-building exercise.
Northeast’s float was entirely softball player generated and built with Long serving asSanta and team captain Leslie Hendrix being picked to serve as Mrs. Claus on the float while other members of the team sat around an open fire pit telling stories of Christmas.
“We are trying to give back to the community,” Long said.