CLIPPERS PAINT THE TOWN

The Clippers’ BIG IS HERE caravan visited three Los Angeles-area elementary schools as well as a local fire station, police station and team sponsor Monday afternoon as part of their 2012 Paint the Town event.

Photo: Varon Panganiban

The Clippers visited six locations in Los Angeles Monday afternoon as part of their 2012 Paint the Town – BIG IS HERE Caravan.

The caravan consisted of three buses, which departed from the team’s Playa Vista Training Center with players, coaches, members of the Clippers Spirit and season ticket holders aboard.

Each bus made two stops, the first at a local elementary school and the second to thank City of Los Angeles Police Officers and Fire Fighters for their service and dedication to the community. Additionally, one bus visited Clippers sponsor The California Endowment, a private health foundation that provides grants to community-based organizations throughout California.

Mark Twain Elementary in Lawndale, Buford Elementary in Inglewood and 42nd Street Elementary near downtown Los Angeles were the first stops on the trip. Players and coaches were introduced by school personnel before hosting a mini Clippers FIT Clinic and book giveaway as part of the Clippers “Read to Achieve” program.

“It means the world [to the children] because they get to see team members that they see on TV actually care about them, care about them being fit, care about them being good readers, and care about them all the way around,” said Raychelle Cade, a second-grade teacher at 42nd Street School. “They just love and support us and we really appreciate it.”

After leaving their respective schools each group made their way to the second stop on the caravan. One bus visited the California Endowment, where Edward Delatorre, Director of Facilities and Events, said it was an exciting day for the workers at the foundation.

“We work with [the Clippers] on a lot of the health and fitness programs as we're a healthcare foundation,” he said. “We work with under-served communities, so it's a great tie-in for the two of us. We kept [the visit] a secret. We wanted it to be an exciting day for them, and kind of change the work day up a little bit."

Another bus stopped at the Southwest Community Police Station where players and coaches talked to officers and police employees, posed for pictures, passed out hats, and thanked the group for their service. A few miles away, the third bus in the caravan was visiting Los Angeles Fire Department Station No. 5 in Westchester.

Chauncey Billups, who said much like other youngsters he wanted to be a police officer or fire fighter as a child, talked about his admiration for both positions. “When you see the commitment that they make to the community, it’s a highly courageous, brave position. I don’t think everybody can do it.”

Billups was one of five players at the fire station and along with Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf took a brief ride around the block in one of the trucks. Los Angeles Fire Chief Brian Cummings said more than 40 fire fighters and staff members from nearby stations were able to attend the event.

“I wanted to share it with as many folks as I could,” Cummings said. “It’s a real positive thing. The guys are excited to be out here and see the players, to shake hands with them and talk to them, and also to share with them some of the stuff that we do because all of these guys that are here from the Clippers they’re all heroes, kids look up to them, and put their posters on the wall. But the 3,400 men and women of this department are heroes, too, and it’s a different kind of heroism. To let them share kind of what they do with [Clippers players], it means a lot to them.”

For Odom, the feeling was mutual.

“I was always taught to keep my hand off the stove or if you feel fire you stay away from it and [for fire fighters] to go right into the middle of a fire, amidst the danger, and risk their life, it’s amazing,” he said. “I think about them and the young men and women that go to war and put their lives on the line, I get really emotional about it. People think it’s hard or clutch to take the last shot, that’s so easy when you think of these guys. They’re the real heroes.”