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12/24/10 10:00 AM EST

Markakis, wife help local kids during holidays

The Right Side Foundation serves underprivileged youth

BALTIMORE -- Prior to Tuesday's holiday shopping spree, Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis and his wife, Christina, were asked if perhaps they wanted to set a budget to keep the event, set at a local Target, within a certain monetary realm.

"I said, 'A budget?' Are you kidding me?" said Christina, a mother of two children, Taylor and Tucker, herself. "When a child sees a toy they want, have you seen their eyes? They just light up."

And thanks to the charitable endeavors of the Markakis family -- through their self-started the Right Side Foundation -- there promises to be a lot of excitement this holiday season for Baltimore's less privileged youth. The goal of the Right Side Foundation -- a non-profit organization established by the Markakis family in 2009 -- is to help improve the lives of distressed children in Maryland through programming, investing in community groups/initiatives and developing strategic partnerships.

With the holiday season in full swing, the chance to expand the foundation's efforts and brighten the holidays for the less fortunate was one that Nick and Christina jumped at.

"We both just love Christmas and buying gifts and the whole spirit of [the holidays]," said Christina. "So we really wanted to make sure we were able to help out this year as much as possible."

After making a financial donation and distributing a glove and baseball to each child present at last week's annual OriolesReach Holiday Party, on Tuesday the Markakises treated area resident Jacqueline Bassett and her five children to an all-expenses-paid trip to Target. The shopping spree, which was coordinated in conjunction with OriolesReach, started with the Bassetts being picked up in a limousine at their home and whisked off to join the Markakis clan.

The Bassett family was selected with the help of Samuel F. B. Morse Elementary School in Baltimore City, where two of the children are honor roll students and actively involved in student council, safety patrol and the chess team.

"It's wonderful -- it's a feeling I don't think anything can replace," Christina said of the unique ability the foundation has given her and Nick to help give back.

"These children, this family has proven themselves and shown that you can still work hard and do the right thing, even if you don't have the financial need to have the best of the clothes, the best of stuff.

This is exactly why we want to gift them with what we feel they absolutely deserve."

The Markakises are also purchasing 21 winter coats, via the foundation, for children at St. Vincent's Villa. Located in Timonium, Md., St. Vincent's provides residential treatment and diagnostic services for children from throughout Maryland who suffer from mental health issues or trauma as the result of physical, mental and/or sexual abuse or neglect.

"We were sitting talking about, 'Gosh we want to adopt 21 families at Christmas,' but that's impossible to do because you run out of time," Christina said. "In keeping with [Nick's jersey] number theme, I wanted to do 21 jackets because it's getting cold."

A Florida native, Christina admits she's hasn't quite adjusted to winters up north. But since the Markakises decided to make their home in Monkton, Md., their year-round residence, Nick and Christina have made a conscious effort through the foundation to help better the lives of their new, extended family.

"We are excited and very glad to be here in this community," Christina said. "We are definitely starting to get bigger [as a foundation] and more known and with that we able to do more."

Through a partnership with book publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Nick and Christina will also personally deliver 100 copies of the book The Polar Express to children throughout the state. Houghton Mifflin donated the books and Christina said the initial plan for distribution includes visiting local children's hospitals.

The Right Side Foundation is also partnering with CitiFinancial for a Winter Clothing Drive, related to the 2011 CitiFinancial Kickoff event for the Northeast Division, that will take place in Baltimore in mid-January. More than 500 invitees will donate an item of winter clothing when they register at the event on January 17. Staff from The Right Side Foundation will be on hand to accept the donations, which will be distributed to various groups in need throughout Maryland.

"It just seems like what we are doing is starting now to really be seen by the community and appreciated," Christina said. "It's cyclical. [Giving back] it's such a cycle, one person helps out, and then more people. It all leads to even more."

The Markakises have left some time to create their own holiday traditions, including a Christmas tree that Nick -- with Jordan in tow -- chopped down at a local tree farm. Last December they were away on vacation, making 2010 a very special first Christmas in Maryland for both of their young boys.

"We are just really, really excited for this to continue and, of course, grow every year," Christina said of all of the foundation's winter activities. "We just want to help, we want to give back."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.