Gomes, Roberson Make Special Trip to Charles Haskell

The kindergartners in Katelyn Donovan’s classroom at Charles Haskell Elementary were seated with rapt attention, awaiting their surprise special guests.

In the door walked two Thunder players and immediately, one of the girls in the class, Ryelle, beamed with joy. Her dad, Ryan Gomes, had just walked into the room. Just like any father who has the opportunity to drop in on his daughter’s class, Gomes was smiling ear-to-ear. Along with rookie teammate Andre Roberson, Gomes proceeded to read a book to the class as a part of the Thunder Reading Timeout program. Needless to say, the student most excited about the visit was Gomes’ daughter.

“I thought he was really proud and I was really happy he was reading a book to me,” Ryelle Gomes said.

“It was special,” Ryan Gomes said. “I think she got a kick out of it. I always get a kick out of giving back, especially to the kids. They look at us in a different light because we’re athletes but we have to explain to them that we were in the same situation that they are in.”

Thunder players may be in the limelight when playing in front of the crowds at Chesapeake Energy Arena and on television, but in reality, they are normal men in the Oklahoma City community. Just like every other parent, Gomes hung around after the visit to catch up with Donovan and take Ryelle home. He may have a high profile job, but Gomes exemplified how he is a regular dad at the same time.

“Ryelle is a great girl and I know her dad,” Donovan explained. “I see him all the time coming to school.”

“(The visit) was amazing,” Donovan said. “I really loved having them here. It’s great that they’re encouraging literacy in school and reading. That’s really beneficial to our students.”

The pair of Thunder wingmen read the book “A Bad Case of Stripes”, by David Shannon, to the class. Laughter filled the air as Gomes and Roberson helped describe the fictional character Camilla Cream’s love of lima beans and that when she stopped eating them, her skin turned into multi-colored stripes. It was a light-hearted event that concluded with a reading pledge that all the students recited before receiving a Thunder backpack, bookmark and wristband before they went home.

The Thunder Reading Timeout is a great event for bringing players into the community and letting them visit with future generations who already love the team, but it’s also a commitment from the team to helping promote education. By encouraging students to read at an early age and showing them the value of school, Gomes and Roberson tried to motivate these kindergartners to listen to their teachers and do some reading at home each night.

“You learn something new every day and reading books is a big part of that,” Roberson said. “There’s a lot of information and a lot of things to be read out in the world. It’s good that they get started early and learn something new.”