Shopping Spree Gives Moore Families a Happy Holiday Season

Six-year-old Mila Sanderson tip-toed through Target in Oklahoma City, searching for some pajamas for her two-year-old sister, Claire. Fortunately, Mila had a guide with her to help with the hunt – Thabo Sefolosha.

On Wednesday night, the Thunder hosted its annual Holiday Assist Shopping Spree, presented by Cox, as every member of the team, Rumble and Thunder Girls helped 10 families spend $1,000 toward necessities and holiday presents. Each family, including the Sandersons, were impacted by the tornadoes that swept through the Oklahoma City area last spring.

Despite her home being damaged in the tornado, being hospitalized and being treated for trauma symptoms, Mila Sanderson was bubbling with energy. A total chatterbox with Sefolosha, she described her sister Claire as a girl who loves dolls, dogs and getting piggy back rides.

“She’s very silly,” Mila said.

When Mila wasn’t shopping for her baby sister, she was making friends with Sefolosha and hopping from section-to-section in target to find clothes, toys and other essentials to help replace what her family lost in the storms. Not only did Mila and Sefolosha have a wonderful time helping restore One Direction toys, ponies and sweatshirts, they also came away as buddies.

“It was fun meeting the Thunder and seeing my sister when we were shopping,” Mila said. “This was my best day ever!”

“It’s always great, but especially for this little girl here,” Sefolosha said of Mila. “She and her family went through a lot so I think they really deserve it. It’s fun for all of us.”

Throughout the store, Thunder players were going up and down aisles with children and families sharing laughs, jokes, smiles and family stories. Kendrick Perkins carried 5- and 4-year-olds Alexander and Brian Dunn, one in each arm as they picked out Angry Birds toys. The Dunn boys’ 8-year-old sister was at Briarwood Elementary when the tornado, and the Dunn’s home was damaged.

Perkins was extremely active in the aftermath of the tornadoes, along with the rest of the Thunder organization, and witnessed the devastation and need amongst families in the area. As a result, the opportunity to continue to give back to families who are still getting back on their feet was incredibly poignant.

“I always think about, ‘What if it happened to me? Wouldn’t I want someone to do the same for me?’” Perkins explained. “We’re always doing it from the heart.”

Across the aisle, Nick Collison was shopping with 5-year-old Annie Garbelman, who knew exactly what she wanted for her special holiday treat as soon as she walked in the door. Collison described Annie’s bee-line to the Barbie section, where she picked up 12 different dolls. For a veteran who has a daughter of his own, Collison could appreciate the enthusiasm, in addition to giving back to the Thunder fan base who has been so supportive of the team over the past five-plus years.

“We really appreciate playing here and we appreciate the support we get from the community,” Collison said. “When we have a chance to do something to help out people in this community, we love being able to do it.”

The children who visited with each Thunder player had smiles on their faces throughout the night, but for their parents it was equal parts exciting and emotional. Mila Sanderson’s mother, Nina, was beaming after she, her husband David, her two daughters and son Brian took a picture with Sefolosha, but she also recognized just how special the event was for her family. Having such a positive experience after the trying past six months was a great way to welcome in the holiday season and turn a new page for the Sanderson family.

“This has been more than we imagined,” Nina Sanderson said. “It’s precious to us. We have been blessed more than we could possibly expect. Just to see the smiles on our kids’ faces, it’s priceless.”