The Los Angeles Clippers celebrated the holiday season Friday night at the Salvation Army Siemon Family Youth and Community Center by providing 30 in-need families with food, holiday gifts and a few extra surprises.

Set up in the center’s gymnasium, the setting was festive and energetic. After checking in, the first stop for families was the“Read to Achieve” table. With several different titles to choose from, children were allowed to select a book of their liking. Families were then escorted to tables donning holiday decorations, sweet treats and personalized place cards.

The participating families were selected based on need reflecting monthly income, school-age children living in the home, rent limitations and employment status.

A nutritious meal was provided by Ralphs and Food 4 Less, both of which have been longtime partners of several Clippers events.The spread included chicken, sandwiches, fruit, green salad,beverages and more. Vanessa Rosales, the Community Relations Manager for Ralphs and Food 4 Less talked about the importance of the partnership with the organization.

“For Ralphs and Food 4 Less, we like to align ourselves with organizations that have the same values as we do,” Rosales said.“To be able to give back to the community with the Clippers, who share the same ideology as we do, it just makes perfect sense.”

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The energy of the room was electric as several Clippers players entered the gymnasium after dinner was served. Clippers centerDeAndre Jordan, forward Antawn Jamison, guard Willie Green, forward Jared Dudley, forward Reggie Bullock and guardMaalik Wayns made their way around the room, greeting eachfamily and posing for pictures with many of the children. As things settled down, children began to gather around the Christmas tree for a story.
Spread out across the floor, several children listened silently asWayns and Bullock read the Christmas-themed story, “Santa Claustrophobia” aloud. With help from Jamison, Green, Jordan and Dudley, kids were given the chance to gaze at the pictures while quietly reading along.

After story time, families were called up to the front of the gymnasium to receive their presents. Families had their ‘wish lists’ fulfilled through the contributions from the Clippers team, each list being a combination of each families’ wants and needs. Players and coaches donated to cover the cost of the event and help families through the holiday season.

In addition to their wish lists, families also received a few surprises including gift cards to Target, Ralphs and Superior Markets. The biggest surprise came at the end of the evening when Dudley announced that he and his fellow Clippers teammates were helping to pay each family’s January month’s rent. The once noisy room became silent as families embraced and celebrated with smiles.

Robert Kalestian, who attended the event with his wife and twochildren said, “When the players told us that they would be paying a month of our rent, I felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulder. It gives me and my family a chance to enjoy the holidays without having to worry about how we’re going to make it to the next month. Thanks to the Clippers, we’re going to have a great Christmas.”

As the evening concluded, several of the participating players talked about being a part of the event.

“It’s a blessing to be here and give back to other families, especially during the holiday season.” Green said. “We know that families can go through tough times and during the holiday season, we want to make sure that we do as much as we can to help out.”

Dudley added, “I’ve seen so much giving here, it’s been such a great night. To be able to put smiles on people’s faces, especially at Christmas time, that’s what it’s all about.”