Thabeet Helps Moore Girl’s Wish Come True

The May 20th tornado was barreling down on Moore and Deborah Preissler knew she didn’t have much time. Racing from the school where she works, Southgate-Rippetoe Elementary, Preissler made it to Plaza Towers Elementary to pick up her 11-year old niece less than ten minutes before the tornado devastated the school.

Hayley Hawk, Preissler’s neice, moved to Moore with her family just 30 days prior to the storm. When she was settling into her room, she decided to make a “dream list” of things that she wanted to happen while she lived in her new house. Meeting the boy band One Direction was on the list, but first and foremost was meeting a Thunder player.

“A week or two before (the storm), she had put a note on her bedroom door,” Preissler said. “That was on her dream list. She just moved into her room.”

The Hawk household sustained some damage in the storm and Hayley’s school and the surrounding neighborhood was leveled. In fact, Hayley could see all the way to Plaza Towers from her house because everything in between was flattened. Over a month removed from the storm, with friends, classmates and families in her Moore neighborhood still recovering, one of Hawk’s wishes came true.

On Tuesday at the Thunder Youth Basketball Camp at Carl Alberts High School in Midwest City, Hawk was in attendance as the Thunder hosted a camp that was free of charge to students that went to Plaza Towers, Briarwood Elementary and Highland Park. In the early afternoon, Thunder center Hasheem Thabeet hopped down the stairs onto the gymnasium floor, and Hawk immediately thought of the wish list on her bedroom door.

“I got to meet a Thunder player,” Hawk said. “I didn’t really know what to say because I never met a famous person before.”

“It was really cool,” Hawk continued. “I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

Thabeet signed autographs, helped out with basketball drills, took photos and even tied one boy’s shoe. Standing at 7-feet, 3-inches tall, Thabeet is the tallest player in the league but is one of the gentlest ones when it comes to playing with children and talking to people in the Oklahoma City community. A fixture on the Rolling Thunder Book Bus this year, Thabeet has been one of the most active players on the team in the community.

In the days after the May 20th tornado, he was in the group of players who went down to Moore to meet with families, so he understood the importance of his visit to camp where many Moore children were enjoying the game of basketball. Not only does Thabeet have the basketball expertise to help the campers learn basketball techniques and skills, but he also has the kindness and empathy to find a way to brighten the days of these Moore children.

“It’s great just to be able to give that joy and give them something to smile about for the day,” Thabeet said. “I don’t know how their families are recovering, but we’re all together with them. Coming out here to the community and doing stuff like this has been a good thing.”

“When I was young, I never got a chance to do stuff like this,” Thabeet said. “So for me to come out here and actually hang with the kids and teach them one or two things is great.”