Players Host Thanksgiving Dinner

Austin Croshere and his wife Emily were servers at the Pacers' Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday at Conseco Fieldhouse.
(Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images)

Indianapolis, Nov. 27 - Ron Mercer won't have his family in town for Thanksgiving, so he figured he'd help as many others as possible.

Mercer and Austin Croshere took the lead in organizing a Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday evening in the Conseco Fieldhouse entry pavilion. More than 500 men, women and children from area downtown missions were served hot dinners by Mercer, Croshere and other players, coaches and training staff.

Holiday giving is nothing new to Mercer. While with the Bulls, he hosted similar events, one at a church in one of Chicago's roughest neighborhoods, and one at the team's Berto Center practice facility.

"When I found out they had this event here, it was something I wanted to come and do right away," Mercer said. "Some people don't have their family members together. I don't have my family together; they won't be up here. It's one of those things where you give folks a Thanksgiving dinner and the Pacers family and everybody there join together as one big family."

Croshere and Mercer also helped line up corporate donations that filled "goody bags" for the guests. Everyone in attendance received a bag that included a t-shirt & socks (courtesy of Galyan’s); hats, gloves & blankets (courtesy of the Pacers, Mercer and Croshere); and various other Pacers and Fever items. Marsh provided bags for all of the items, as well as 200 “to go” containers and a ticket for everyone in attendance at the dinner for the Pacers game vs. the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, Nov. 28.

"As professional athletes, we're in a very blessed position," Croshere said. "It's not in the rulebook anywhere that we have to give back but because of the situation we're in we're blessed with the opportunity to help other people. The people at the Pacers make it real easy for us given our time constraints. It's great. It's something we should honestly do a lot more of."

Other celebrities in attendance included Indiana Fever player and 2002 WNBA Rookie of the Year Tamika Catchings, the Indiana Pacemates, the Indiana Pacers/Indiana Fever All-Star Reading Team and the Pacers’ mascots, Boomer and Bowser.

As part of the Indiana Pacers/Indiana Fever Read to Achieve program presented by Bank One, Emily Croshere of the All-Star Reading Team read stories to the children and distributed free books. The complimentary books were provided by Scholastic Inc.

The dinner was prepared by Levy Restaurants. Staff members from Pacers Sports & Entertainment also served as volunteers. The turkeys were donated by Tamika Catchings, the ham by Marsh and Hormel Hams.

Area downtown missions included in this event are the Holy Family Shelter, Lighthouse Mission, Care Center, Wheeler Mission, Second Helpings and Horizon House.