The Canes Baseball Christmas Project, which began in 2008, strives to provide a joyous occasion for local families in need.
"Christmastime, everybody says it's the season of giving and we wanted to give back to the community so we started that," Cartersville coach Stuart Chester said of the project. "We live off the community and the support that they give us financially ... coming out to the baseball games and coming to all athletic functions at Cartersville High School really. It's just a [direction] we decided to go to help give back to the community.
"I know there's a lot of different avenues and things you can do, but this is just one way."
When the program began, Purple Hurricane baseball players raised $25 each, but that number increased to $50 last December.
Chester stressed the importance of players actually earning the money through hard work.
"They go out and work and earn the money ... [they] don't ask mom or dad for it, and then we combine it together and we pick some less fortunate families and try to give 'em a good Christmas," the longtime Cartersville coach explained. "I think once they put forth the effort, they have a little more interest in the project. It means a little bit more to 'em once they see the money that they worked [for] and earned go [toward] a good cause."
The Canes had delivered Christmas gifts to families outside of the school during the first couple of years but will stay in-house with their gift-giving this year, their coach said.
"In the past, we had gone outside our own school, but this year we made the decision to go and help some of the students in our own school building. Some of these students, they have in class, they walk by [them] in the hallway, and we see it as teachers," said Chester, who noted that his players have no idea which students they are helping. "It's just an opportunity to help somebody in your own home.
"They'll feel the difference, whether they see it or not."
That difference, he said, will be felt for years to come.
"The first time we did this three years ago, that was the highlight, really, of some the players' year. Even though we won a state championship, they'd still talk about showing up and seeing the smile of some of the kids' faces and some family that might get a hot meal at Christmas when otherwise they wouldn't," said Chester, whose team won back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009. "This really doesn't have anything to do with baseball or for baseball, it's just an opportunity for those that are involved in baseball to do something good and they'll remember this -- state championship or no state championship, they'll remember changing peoples' lives forever."