LeBron James asked students of two local high schools to make his annual Wingfoots Classic tournament more than just a basketball game this year, and they are eagerly embracing the challenge.

Students at Stow-Munroe Falls High School and James’ own alma mater of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron have immersed themselves this week in decorating their halls with the help of a $1,000 check from James. The friendly competition will be judged today, when a team from sponsor Goodyear determines who gets bragging rights for best school spirit.

On Saturday morning, a crate will be dropped off in the parking lots of both schools. Each community will be given 3½ hours to stuff their crate with as many scarves, hats, gloves and socks as possible to win bragging rights for charity.

Only then will the challenge move on to an actual basketball game, with varsity girls’ and boys’ teams from the schools facing off Sunday in pursuit of bragging rights for skill.

Understandably, James let his bias show in his video invitation.

“St. Vincent-St. Mary, don’t let me down. You guys know it’s always Irish pride, baby,” he said. “Stow Bulldogs, let’s see what y’all got.”

You betcha, those Bulldogs have responded, many showing off their efforts on social media with the hashtag #runningwiththebulldogs.

“When a challenge has been given to us, we always rise,” said Stow teacher and student council adviser Alex McMahan. “We’re good at whatever we do and ready to prove ourselves. We’re fighters.”

That seemed more than evident when 100 Stow students answered the call to turn out at 8 a.m. Sunday to begin decorating.

School boosters matched the $1,000 decorating allowance, and the students whirled through the school for four hours, turning a quarter mile of hallway into a tale of school spirit that will be read to judges.

The bug was also caught by the district’s middle and elementary schools, which decorated for spirit week and shared their creativity efforts on Facebook and Twitter.

Meanwhile, 13 miles away, St. Vincent-St. Mary students are determined to make their most famous alumnus proud.

More than 40 students took charge of the decorating budget, which received a boost from many parents who donated lights and other accessories.

“It’s a huge deal,” junior Madie Morse said of this year’s unusual challenge. “We always stress how big of a family we are, and that showed through this process with everyone coming together.”

Patty Burdon, the school’s liaison to the LeBron James Family Foundation, said students and staff also want to demonstrate that they’ve learned the importance of giving back from their generous benefactor.

“Our kids have received so much from LeBron. Our gym. The uniforms. We’re the best-looking team around because of him, so we want the kids to know it’s our turn to help him help his kids,” Burdon said.

The winter gear being collected Saturday will go to the children who are part of the LeBron James Family Foundation’s I Promise program.

“We’re encouraging the community to come out and support us Saturday,” junior Russell Cooper said. “We’re always willing to give back and this is one symbol of that.”

At Stow, McMahan said he’s confident the community will also join students and faculty in showing their generosity.

“We’re going to pack that crate,” he said.

Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or pschleis@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/paulaschleis.