Clippers Adopt a Family Event

Photos: Varon Panganiban

LOS ANGELES - Clippers forward Matt Barnes stood in front of a crowded gymnasium at the Salvation Army’s Seimon Family Youth and Community Center and made a holiday announcement that brought a joyous reaction from some 45 families.

“We want to help you guys with your January month’s rent,” Barnes said over a small public address system.

The mothers and fathers who were gathered around Barnes and fellow Clippers Willie Green and Grant Hill alternated between cheering and hugging one another. The gesture was the finale to Thursday’s seventh annual “Adopt a Family” night, where Clippers players, the Los Angeles Clippers Foundation, Ralphs and the Salvation Army partner to provide gifts, food and more to Los Angeles-area families in need.

“I always say to people that this event is my favorite event,” said Mortimer Jones, who is the Executive Director of the youth and community center. “We do a lot of events, much larger, but there’s something about having an intimate feel.

And instead of having people stand in line for food, they get to sit down at the table, have a meal together and that’s so special. We take these little things for granted, sitting down and eating and having a meal. Many, many families today don’t have a chance to do that.

“We have families right here in this room with two or three jobs. They don’t have a chance to sit with their kids. And we take these little things for granted.”

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

Gabriella Hernandez, who attended the event with her 3-year-old son Jeremiah, and 7-year-old niece Rosemary, said,

“It’s very important for us. Being low-income and not having a full-time job, it’s a lot of help that they provide for us. Because of the economy, it’s a lot of help, especially for our family. It’s just good to know there are people with good hearts.”

There were 45 families in attendance, which according to Jones, is the largest group the center has hosted for this particular event. Upon arrival they checked in at a table in the center’s lobby next to a nearly 18-foot tall Christmas tree.

Inside the small gymnasium they were served chicken, sandwiches, fruit, chips, beverages and more, courtesy of Ralphs.

Green, Barnes and Hill arrived shortly thereafter wearing red Clippers shooting shirts and Clippers colored Santa caps.

“It’s important for the kids because they believe in Santa Claus,” Hernandez said. “And we want to keep their spirits up and this year Santa Claus is Ralphs and the Clippers.”

Once the group was finished eating the children gathered for story in front of the three Clippers, who were sitting on couches around a Christmas tree. Barnes, Green and Hill alternated reading pages from a children’s book entitled “Are You Grumpy Santa?” and even allowed a few boys and girls to help read the story.

“The icing on the cake is to have players, superstars, take time,” said Jones, who was among those who helped open the center almost a decade ago. “I mean, these guys played [on Wednesday]. They’re playing [Friday] and still found time to come and spend some time with families. I think that’s extremely, extremely special.”

The night concluded with families receiving gifts from their Christmas lists, a combination of wants and needs fulfilled.

The three Clippers players personally passed out the presents, and received their fair share of hugs from happy mothers and fathers.

For Green, it was an all-around rewarding experience.

“Coming from humble beginnings myself and a family that really worked hard to support me and my siblings, it feels good to be in a position to give back to families that need it and brighten up their day just for a little while or to be able to give those guys a decent meal,” the Clippers guard said. “I think it’s really what you work hard for. God has blessed me with to be on a certain platform that allows me to give back and it’s awesome to be able to do this like this.

“To be able to come in here and do things for other children and other families that are in need, it’s really uplifting,” Green continued. “I wish we could do more of this. I wish I could really help everybody. It’s tough, but just to be able to put a smile on their faces and be able to make that connection for a little bit of time is really rewarding and uplifting for us.”