North-South All-Star Football Game

A North-South tradition: Tears, laughs, Wal-Mart and a buffet

bbyers@herldonline.comDecember 6, 2012 

— It was nothing like “Black Friday,” when folks around the country lined up to purchase that prized flat screen that circulars said would never be sold again at such a low price.

Wasn’t even close.

The fifth North-South Shopping Spree went off with few glitches on Thursday at Wal-Mart as players escorted underprivileged kids from area around the store and helped them spend the $100 gift cards they received.

The S.C. Football Coaches also arranged for the 42 kids to eat lunch at Golden Corral before shopping across the parking lot. The favorite among the kids seemed to be chicken breasts and dipping sweets under the chocolate fountain.

The players – it’s hard to pick a favorite because most are in town for the 64th Annual North-South All-Star Football Game – made three and four trips to the buffet. To be honest, the famous eatery has small plates, but players like York’s Beau Nunn were among several who have learned to stack.

The event was set up and is still organized by former Myrtle Beach High and Seattle Seahawks player Brandon Frye, who was on hand Thursday to help.

Players from each team lined up across from each other, starting with the lowest number to the highest. Once a North and South player were partnered, they were assigned a kid and headed to the store to get a shopping cart and get started.

There were tears, laughs and even advice passed on from the players.

One asked if his shared kid had a tattoo.

“Whoa now,” his Saturday opponent said. “He’s only 10, so don’t give him any ideas. He’ll make that decision when the time is right.”

All three got a huge laugh from the exchange.

Another wanted to spend nearly all of his money on one item.

“You shouldn’t be nervous and spend all of your money at once,” one of his escorts said. “You can get what you want, but we are here to help you.”

It was heart-warming and more than one shopper in the busy store broke out in tears after being told what was going on.

“What are they buying?” a lady asked.

“Things they need like a winter coat and maybe a popular toy or a ball,” a player answered.

At one point a kid asked his escort to reach high and grab a football off the top shelf. Two rows over the player spotted a Wilson football that was four bucks cheaper and said they should switch, which they did.

One bought a football, a basketball and a soccer ball among other goodies.

And most escorts kept a running tally on the cell phone calculators, most hitting $100 or close and heading to the checkouts.

They had been told ahead of time to use only counters 17 and 18. But as you can imagine, that was like telling Eve not to take a bite out of the fruit.

Gaffney’s Quan Weeks (North) and Summerville’s Jerod Tucker (South) tuned theirs off early because they are not up-to-date on just how expensive the basics have become.

When the cash register stopped it read: $217. A mad rush started to remove items from the bag that were agreeable with the buyer.

The players dug into their pockets, a North assistant coach, Central’s Joey Mangum, and a female shopper, Rock Hill’s Donna Ratterree, swung into action.

They made up the difference and the bag was repacked.

“We bought stuff like underwear, socks, school supplies and Christmas cards for his mom and grandma,” Weeks said. “We started emptying our pockets because we wanted him to have a good practice. We were short but Coach and that nice lady helped us with the rest.

“When I was a little kid, it seems like I always had a good Christmas. We wanted the same for him.”

On Thursday for 44 needy kids at Wal-Mart, it was beginning look a lot like Christmas.

Barry Byers 329-4099

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