Pierce, Allen Help Wishes Come True
WALTHAM, Mass. – The scene at the Celtics’ practice facility Tuesday afternoon was powerful and life-changing: children smiling from ear to ear and tears flowing from parents’ eyes.
The reason for those smiles and tears was that Alberto, Deon and Howie, three youngsters who have struggled with different illnesses, were provided the opportunity to meet their favorite athletes through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The difficult memories of the children’s life-long struggles were briefly sent to the backburner on this day, as their wishes to meet Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were granted.
The kids and their families were greeted by the Celtics Community Relations staff upon entering the facility and treated to lunch. It was difficult for them to eat, however, because they were so excited about being able to watch the Celtics practice and then meet the players that inspire them.
As practice quickly approached, the youth were brought down to the court just in time to see the team huddle up at center court before breaking for practice.
“They’re so much taller in person,” exclaimed Alberto.
Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge and Head Coach Doc Rivers each made their way over to greet the group.
“I’m glad you all are here today,” said Rivers. “I heard you all are here to meet Ray (Allen) or Paul (Pierce). You couldn’t meet two better guys and I know they’re excited to meet you all as well.”
The kids sat in awe as the team stretched, went through shooting drills and practiced offensive and defensive plays. They were given an opportunity to witness how much work goes into being a professional athlete and the privilege didn’t go unnoticed.
“I can’t believe we got to watch practice today,” said Howie, an avid basketball player and fan. “This is something I will never forget.”
As practice came to a close, Pierce and Allen made their way to the trio with gift bags for each. Pierce presented Deon with one of his authentic jerseys in addition to his game-worn shoes, a Celtics hat and a sweatshirt. Deon was thankful for the gifts but was itching for a chance to shoot on the practice court.
Pierce noticed Deon’s desire to shoot and quickly grabbed a basketball and took his new buddy to the court. The small group of players and coaches gathered around Deon clapped and cheered him on as he made a shot on his first attempt.
“You’ve got some game,” said Pierce.
Alberto and Howie, after meeting Allen and being presented with their gift bags as well, joined Deon and the kids shot with both Pierce and Allen for a while. The smiling faces were enough to bring tears to the parents and guardians who were watching the interaction.
“This experience is beyond words,” said Deon’s aunt. “I can’t thank the Celtics enough for giving us this wonderful memory.”
The Celtics experience didn’t stop with the meet and greet after practice for the youth. The kids and their families also attended the Celtics game the next day. While sitting courtside for pregame, the families enjoyed watching the players warm up in addition to having their photos taken at center court.
“I look forward to this event every year,” said Allen. “These kids have gone through so much at such a young age. I’m happy the Celtics were able to let them feel like kids and just enjoy the experience.”