Passing gifts to Puerto Rico

Craig McKennon plays point guard for the Newport Harbor Sailors in what essentially is the sunset year of his high school life.

But over Thanksgiving break he and the rest of the Sailors focused on something much more important than their jump shots: The hoops squad delivered a duffel bag's worth of pencils to orphans living in Ponce, Puerto Rico and a pediatric cancer center in San Juan.

The team had been participating in the Puerto Rican Island Jam tournament. And even though they lost three of their four games, McKennon said the experience of helping the children in need far outweighed any accomplishments on the basketball court.

"If you could have seen their faces," said McKennon, 17, a graduating senior who soon hopes to attend Stanford or a University of California campus. "It was great. Their faces just lit up. It was sort an early Christmas for them. They really appreciated it. You could tell."

The team also gave every child a basketball. They were also able to communicate with some of the children, McKennon said, either by drawing upon some of the skills they picked up in their Spanish classes at Newport Harbor or relying on Omar Ramos, a teammate who speaks Spanish.

The display of generosity was brought to Ponce by way of Newport-Mesa's Beach City Service League, which made a point of connecting the team with the children, said Annie Quinn, a mother and league member.

It's just the latest in a series of good deeds on behalf of the league, founded three years ago, and the only one of its kind in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, said Susan Friend, a youth coordinator for the league.

The purpose of the league is to connect mothers with their sons and teach their sons how to become upstanding citizens and members of society.

There are several organizations that focus on community service, as it relates to daughters, but there's a void when it pertains to sons, Friend said.

At last week's monthly meeting, Rex Hudler, a former Angels' announcer, spoke to the some 80 young men, advising them to prepare their careers early in life if they want to be ahead of the game.

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