Scott Kitun/The Medillian

Scott Kitun/The Medillian

Each year St. Patrick High School, in Portage Park, and St. Viator High School, in northwest suburban Arlington Heights, compete to see who can collect the most toys for the annual Walter and Connie Payton Foundation Christmas Party.

This year is no different.

St. Patrick has outdueled St. Viator in the annual Christmas toy drive two of the past three years.

“Having played for St. Viator and competing against St. Pat’s and coach Galante, I am truly appreciative for everything they have done for my family and our foundation,” said Jarrett Payton, son of the Chicago Bears’ legendary running back Walter Payton.

Known by the nickname of “Sweetness,” for his graceful running style and generous personality, Walter Payton was well-known for giving back to the community and especially to the children, his son noted.

Following his passing in 1999, Connie and their children, Jarrett and Brittany, established the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation to carry on their father’s legacy of sweetness.

By hosting toy drives over the past decade, the foundation has provided Christmas joy for thousands of underprivileged children throughout the city of Chicago, Jarrett Payton said.

“I just remember as a little kid my dad letting me go to the toy store and fill up a cart with anything I wanted. Then he would pull into a poor neighborhood and just pop the trunk and I would look at him like he was crazy,” he said. “Then, he would look at me and explain what it meant to be blessed and how to bless others and we would give all the toys away. That’s how it all started.”

For the past four years the Gary family, of 686 Buena Vista Dr. in Glen Ellyn, has hosted an annual Christmas party for the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation.

Last year alone, St. Patrick’s helped to collect over 300 toys for the annual toy drive and already this year according to St. Patrick Principal Joe Schmidt, they are on pace to collect even more, having collected over 250 toys to date.

“The foundation is very dear to our hearts and this party is a thank you to all of those who get involved,” Christy Gary said Saturday evening at the party.

The growth of the foundation has relied on the effort of families such as the Gary’s and on schools such as St. Patrick High School and St. Viator, where Jarrett was a star football athlete at quarterback and running back before his pro days in the Canadian Football League and the NFL.

“We always had to face Jarrett and St. Viator in sports and I got to know Walter over the years. I grew to have such respect for him that we retired his jersey, number 34,” St. Pat’s Athletic Director, Brian Glorioso said.

“Actually, each year the boys that do the most community service get to wear number 34 for the day,” he added. “That’s the kind of respect we have for the Payton’s.”

Star of the week: St. Patrick’s Royale Ewing

Scott Kitun/The Medillian

St. Patrick High School begins the 2012 basketball season with its annual Max Kurland Thanksgiving Tournament and all eyes are on the Shamrock’s star senior guard, Royale Ewing.

Ewing is a 6’1 guard from the Near West Side neighborhood of Chicago and he is currently ranked by espn.com as one of the top 25 players in Chicago.

“If I didn’t choose to go to St. Patrick, I would probably go to Whitney Young. But, I think St. Pat’s offers me the best chance to achieve my dreams.” Ewing said.

Ewing has played competitive basketball since he was 5 years old said his dream has always been to play college basketball and make it to the NBA.

Additionally important to Ewing is academics and that is another reason he left some of his friends and enrolled at St. Patrick High School. Although as Ewing said, “I work hard at school, but I really don’t like science class. That isn’t my favorite subject.”

Last season, St. Patrick lost in the regional round of the Illinois state playoffs to Maine South 43-30.

St. Patrick head coach Mike Bailey said prior to the Max Kurland Tournament that his team is predicated on great defense, but that Royale is definitely the team’s most versatile playmaker.

Ewing, who plays for the Chicago Rising Stars 16U AAU team in the offseason, has played against some of the best players in the Midwest and routinely impresses the scouts with his smooth shooting touch.

At the 3rd Annual Nike Spring Showdown in Merriville, Indiana, Ewing led his Chicago Rising Stars team to the Gold Division Title by scoring 20 points.

His strong play during the AAU circuit has resulted in much recruiting buzz.

“I am currently being recruited by Illinois, Purdue and Xavier. But, I haven’t decided where I want to play yet,” Ewing said.

All of the attention has not distracted Ewing from preparing for his final Shamrock season. He is focused on helping his team move beyond the state’s regional round. But, Ewing said, “First thing though, we have to win our games here in conference.”

Ewing got his 2012 season off to a great start in the first game of the Max Kurland Tournament, by scoring 14 points and advancing his Shamrock team past their first round match-up, Mather High School by 40 points.

“I had a pretty good game shooting tonight,” Ewing said. “But, I want to beat Oak Park Saturday in the tournament finale. They beat us last year and I think we got them this year.”