Nigel Hayes shows off the receipt from the Target shopping spree.

UW Badger basketball star Nigel Hayes hopped on a big Badger bus with 22 needy kids and their families last night to lead them on shopping spree worth $10,000 that included stops at Target Department Store, Metcalfe’s Grocery and Morgan’s Shoes.

“It was like Christmas coming early for some really needy kids,” says Boys and Girls Club of Dane County CEO Michael Johnson who helped organize the event. “Nigel was awesome. He’s just a natural with the kids. We went and picked him up after practice and he got on the bus and the kids and parents were just loving it. Some of the kids were more excited about seeing him than actually going shopping.

“We spent about $4,000 at Target. The owners of Morgan’s Shoes donated about 100 pairs of boots, so that was really nice,” Johnson says. “Tim Metcalfe opened up his store and allowed families to come and get what they needed.”
It all started when Hayes showed up at ESPN’s College Gameday in Madison on October 15 before the Badger game against Ohio State with a sign that said “Broke College Athlete” and had an account username for people to send money to an account online through the app Venmo. “Nigel asked me, ‘Hey, I want to raise some money for the Boys and Girls Club, are you OK with this?’ and I said, ‘Sure,’” Johnson recalls. “We started brainstorming about what we would do with the money, and we said, ‘Let’s take some kids shopping who really need it.’”

The stories of the kids and the families that they ended up choosing for the shopping spree were truly heartbreaking.

“Nigel signed a basketball and we are taking a family to a Badger basketball game tonight. But the father has cancer and only a 30 percent chance of living,” Johnson says. “He’s been in the hospital for over a year. The mother works part-time and has five kids and those kids weren’t going to get anything for Christmas. To see her crying in Nigel’s arms yesterday was so touching.”

Another woman that they helped with the shopping spree is in need of a kidney and had had two strokes. “And she’s not even 35 years of age,” Johnson says. “She’s a single mother of four and her kids didn’t have anything.”
Johnson says that there were so many other touching stories like that.

“I felt really good that we were able to put a smile on their faces and get them what they needed and at the store. It was powerful,” he says.

The touching moments last night have started a tidal wave effect with more and more people contacting Johnson to find out how they can help and what they can contribute. “Just from the time we started posting about it, we raised $11,000. That’s amazing,” Johnson says.

“To actually be there with the families and to see their reactions … that was just awesome,” adds Johnson. “It was one of my best days ever at the Boys and Girls Club.”