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Celtics spread holiday cheer with shopping spree

BOSTON -- A child's smile is one of the most powerful images of the holiday season.

Now, think about the power that 32 children smiling all together can bring and you will get a sense of what the entire Macy's store at the Natick Mall in Natick, Mass., felt on Thursday after Celtics teammates Rajon Rondo and Tony Allen delivered an early Christmas present: a shopping spree at the department store, where the 32 kids from the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children after-school program, ranging in ages from 5 to 12, were able to pick out any two outfits.

Under one condition: They had to let Rondo and Allen be their "personal fashion guides."

Well, of course the kids agreed, especially after hearing how highly both Rondo and Allen regard their own fashion sense. (Rondo couldn't help but mention that a certain Finals MVP -- Paul Pierce -- was among the top three worst dressers on the Celtics.) So off the two fashion consultants went with their groups.

Rondo pointed out jeans and shirts to the boys as they walked, showing them outfits he liked and ones he thought might not be "in style now." Nine-year-old Brian Edouard tested Rondo's fashion sense when he pulled out an all-white shirt and asked Rondo if it looked good.

Rondo responded: "That's a fashion no-no, you can't wear white now." So Edouard put the shirt back, trusting his idol's style IQ.

When another one of the boys couldn't make up his mind on a color for a Sean John shirt, the Celtics point guard couldn't help but pick out one in a shamrock green print.

While Rondo handled the boys' wardrobes, Allen tried to give his best opinion on clothes to the girls in the group. The key word is "tried," as many of the girls, including 7-year-old Victoria Bangari, chose to trust their own fashion sense instead.

"She might be a stylist in the future," Allen said of Bangari, knowing he had no chance of changing her mind about the outfit she had in her hands.

No matter where you looked, the kids' smiles spread to everyone on the top level of the department store, especially as they put on a mini fashion show outside both dressing rooms to make sure their fashion experts -- Rondo and Allen -- thought their outfits were 100 percent "cool."

"The best part about it is seeing the kids smile," Rondo said. "It's the time of giving. And to put a smile on these kids' faces means a lot."

This was the second time that Rondo brought this group of kids on a shopping spree, as he has become heavily involved with the MSPCC since his first visit to the Boston organization in the summer of 2007. The organization strives to make a difference in child abuse and neglect, and holds "prevention" as the focus of its service, according to the MSPCC Web site.

Rondo is hard at work trying to help these children. During the past year, he has become a role model whom the children can always count on, spending as much time as he can with them -- roller-skating, playing basketball, tutoring and even giving them the chance to ask questions about his life during visits. And even when he's not around, he leaves tickets to every Celtics home game for the children so they and their parents can enjoy a night at the Garden. This is extra special to the children because they get to show their families -- who aren't usually involved in the other events -- just how much Rondo means to them.

As for Allen, when he heard about the type of bond Rondo shared with the kids, he was so moved that he had to get involved, and he plans to keep doing events like this one in the future.

"Tonight touched a soft spot in my heart," Allen said.

Patrick Parker is an NBA editor for ESPN.com and can be reached at Patrick.parker05@gmail.com.