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Thunder Cares: Players Give Back to Needy Through Thanksgiving food basket program

By Mindy Ragan Wood

At least 400 people were lined up outside the Urban Mission last month waiting to receive Thanksgiving baskets from the Oklahoma City Thunder players and staff. The Thunder Cares Foundation teamed up with Cox and Homeland to provide turkeys, pies, and all the fixings to needy families.

Players Kevin Durant and newcomer Sebastian Telfair brightened the dreary, rainy day for Oklahomans hitting it rough. Smiles and laughter were as plentiful as the baskets they held and everyone seemed to bubble with joy in the spirit of the season.

“These aren’t people who are going to be able to afford tickets to the Thunder games, so this gives them an opportunity to meet some of those players,” said Urban Mission Executive Director Peggy Garrett.

It hasn’t been easy for a lot of families.

“We started screening for this the second week of October because we thought it would take a while before the holiday,” said Garrett. “The slots filled up in four days, so that tells you about the need here.”

Thunder Cares has been passing out meals to needy families for the last seven years. Durant and Telfair were happy to help.

“It’s always great to be able to help in the inner city, and it’s great to be able to help everyone have a great Thanksgiving meal,” said Telfair. “A lot of families are here and excited to see the players and it’s really cool to be able to be here.”

Since coming to Oklahoma City, the Thunder organization has continually given back to OKC residents and fans.

“I think what we do here gives them a sense of hope and a sense that people care for them, and that’s what we want to do: show them that we care, that we love our communities. I’m glad to be part of it,” said Thunder player and NBA All-Star Kevin Durant.

Both Durant and Telfair said they weren’t born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouths and could identify with the plight of those who struggle in poverty.

“I grew up on Coney Island in a little bit of poverty. I know what they’re going through,” said Telfair.
The Urban Mission, located at 3737 N. Portland covers the east and northwest areas of Oklahoma City. Through their partnership with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, and thanks to faithful sponsors, the mission assists 20,000 people each year.

Families expressed their gratitude to staff and the players as they stopped to take photographs and receive their baskets. Zachary and Alicia Crossmock, a young couple with an infant daughter were couldn’t have been happier. Zachary is looking for work, while his wife Alicia still recovers from being hit by a car last year.

“I’m thankful for them doing this,” said Zachary. “We feel their welcome, going above and beyond to get everyone involved. It makes me feel really happy and thankful.”

Assistant coaches Dave Bliss and Rex Kalamian were also touched by the gratitude and joy they witnessed.
“It’s really a tremendous feeling to be able to help people in need, especially around the holidays,” said Kalamian. “To see the kids’ faces when they see the players, it’s very meaningful. Everyone pitches in, from the basketball operations to the front office, sales and all the different organizations. It’s just fun.”

Bliss added, “It’s tough around the holidays, and any time really, but it’s nice to see people come through here with a smile on their face.”

Thunder Cares is part of the NBA Cares Initiative, addressing social issues such as education, youth and family development, and health and wellness. OKC Thunder and the Thunder Cares Foundation raised $1 million to support relief work for the May 2013 storms. They continue to support numerous causes in Oklahoma.

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