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Holiday season offers many people the opportunity to reflect on the year, be surrounded by their loved ones and give and receive gifts.

But these cherished moments aren’t always a reality for some families, and Kawann Short and E’Twaun Moore are doing their part to help change that in their hometown. Short and Moore grew up in East Chicago and led E.C. Central to the IHSAA Class 4A boys basketball state title in 2007. Since then, the Cardinals’ star athletes have moved past the ranks of high school glory and enjoyed successful careers at the professional level.

Moore plays for New Orleans and is in his eighth NBA season, while Short — also a standout football player in high school — has spent all six of his NFL campaigns with Carolina. Despite reaching the peak of their respective sports, Short and Moore haven’t forgotten where they come from.

For the second consecutive year, The E’twaun Moore Foundation and Kawann Short Charities have come together for their annual Christmas Toy Giveaway. I spoke with both of them about why they feel it is important to remain present in East Chicago, even while being hundreds of miles away.

Both interviews were slightly edited for length and clarity.

Q: How much do you enjoy using your platform to give back?

A: “I just figured along the way – me being a kid, especially growing up in East Chicago – I always try to go back and do things that I would like to have seen done as a kid. Or (try to do) some of the things I said would be fun or that would’ve been cool to me because I never knew any professional basketball players or anything growing up.” — Moore

Q: How would you describe your Christmas growing up and what was your favorite gift as a child?

A: “Christmas was never bad, but I was always one of those kids that wanted more. … As far as items, when I was younger it was probably a bike. Every kid wanted a bike. Once you get your first bike, it’s self-explanatory. You couldn’t wait ‘til the summer. Heck, you were out there riding in the cold. But you didn’t care because it was a brand new bike and you wanted to show it off.” — Short

Q: Why is it so important for you to never forget where you come from?

A: “I always thought about me having support, having great people around me to help me become successful. Maybe I don’t make it as far as I did (without them). I think it’s important for me to give back and plant the seed. That’s what you’re supposed to do. One makes it and then passes it along to the next (person) so they can make it. That’s just something my family instilled in me.” — Moore

Q: Since winning the state championship, how has your relationship with E'Twaun grown over the years?

A: “We’re past that, man. It still comes up when we’re around different people. But it’s more about what we got going on now, and what we’ve been through and what we’ve seen, and how we’ve overcome it and beating the odds. It’s way deeper than sports. … It’s just a blessing to know that one of your homies from back home and your childhood friends is doing wonderful, man.” — Short

Q: Besides the gifts, what do you want families to take away from the Toy Giveaway?

A: “I’m just hoping that they get inspired and they think, ‘Man I can be like them or be better than them.’ You know? It’s a lot of different things not even just sports that you can be successful in. (We) just want to give them the inspiration that they can compete in this life and this world.” — Moore

Q: Even though you aren’t home very often, how does it feel to know you can still help people from where you are?

A: “Home is home. That will never change. The feeling you get when you step in the city, it just smells different. It just feels different. And just knowing the people, the camp I have behind me is helping me, knowing they’re helping with a good cause and seeing all of the kids' smiles on their faces and the ‘Oohs’ and the ‘Aahs’ — all of that makes you warm. It just makes your heart melt.” — Short

Unfortunately, Moore and Short won’t be at the Toy Giveaway on Saturday. Sunday, the Pelicans face Sacramento and the Panthers take on Atlanta. But I still found my conversations with Moore and Short and their support of their community to be inspiring.

As a sports journalist, I’m not supposed to root for any players. And while I understand and accept that obligation, I think moments and events like these are the exception. I don’t care who scores the most points or records the most tackles, and it doesn’t matter to me which team wins or loses. My job is simply to report what happens.

But if you ever see me breaking one of my profession's biggest rules, it will always be to cheer on the athletes who — like Short and Moore — positively impact lives beyond the scoreboard.

Because when the final buzzer sounds and the playing days are over, their humility and empathy will stand the test of time.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at james.boyd@nwi.com

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Lake County Sports Reporter

James Boyd is the Lake County prep sports reporter for The Times. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a proud native of Romeoville, Illinois. Before anything else, his main goal in life is to spread love and light.