UK Men's Basketball

Calipari family, Urban League team up to play Santa

When Santa came calling at Delphia Sweeting's home, he was missing his sleigh and red suit.

Instead, he drove up in a silver Mercedes SUV and corduroys.

University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari visited Sweeting and several other Lexington families Thursday to deliver boxes of gifts.

Calipari partnered with P.G. Peeples, president of Lexington's Urban League, to find senior citizens in Lexington who needed help this holiday season.

Gladys Hayes-Moore, who directs the Urban League's Senior Community Service Employment Program, said the holidays can be hard on senior citizens who don't have a lot of money. A growing number of older people have taken in their children and grandchildren during the recession, which adds financial strain, Hayes-Moore said.

"It can be a depressing time when you can't give a little something," she said.

Each of the nine households Calipari visited received two boxes of food from Kroger and a $100 Wal-Mart gift card. Families with children also got Nike clothes and shoes wrapped by Calipari's wife, Ellen.

She joined her husband and Peeples on a cross-town trip to deliver the goodies. The Caliparis' children Erin and Brad came along.

"It's a great thing that we're in a position to help a lot of people," Ellen Calipari said.

The Caliparis have a history of playing Santa, they said. But this is the first year their giving has been so public, John Calipari said.

"This isn't for us," he said. "This is for them."

The Caliparis made their first stop at Anna Russell's home. As Brad Calipari stacked boxes of food in her kitchen, his father handed Russell a signed copy of his book Bounce Back.

"You can always regift this," the coach said.

"Naw, I'm not going to give it away," Russell said.

Russell said she was thankful for the Caliparis' gifts because she has been rather short on food. She had planned to use leftover turkey from Thanksgiving for her Christmas meal.

"This is a blessing," she said.

Calipari's visit to Sweeting's home changed her outlook on Christmas this year, she said.

"You will never know how much it helps," she told the coach. "This is going to turn out to be a wonderful Christmas after all."