Thunder Cares: 60,000 Books

When Hasheem Thabeet gives out high fives to elementary school students, you can probably guess that they’re not really “high” fives for both parties involved.

The 7-3 Thunder center, along with guard Reggie Jackson, boarded the Rolling Thunder Book Bus on Monday to help hand out books to students at Russell Dougherty Elementary in Edmond.

Only as Thabeet and Jackson climbed off the bus at the end of the visit did many of the children realize just how tall Thabeet was. One child exclaimed, “He’s taller than the bus!” They lined up for high fives from both players as they circulated among the enthralled kids.

But earlier, when the students were climbing up the stairs of the Book Bus, most paid little attention to either player at first. Instead, they focused on picking out a book of their own.

“The first thing they run for is the books,” said Thabeet. “They’re so excited for the books, and then they get to see us and [we get to] brighten up their day. It’s just great to be a part of this program.”

The bus visits schools and community programs nearly every weekday, and guests such as Thunder players or Thunder Girls join the fun whenever they’re able. Both Jackson and Thabeet have made several trips with the bus.

While each Book Bus visit brings special joy to the children who get to climb aboard, today was something special for everyone involved, as the Thunder marked the 60,000th book given out through the program.

Zoey, who was the recipient of the book that set the milestone, lit up as she had her picture taken with the players. She said she liked to read about pirates, so everyone on board the bus helped her find a book with pirates.

“It was definitely fun taking the picture with the girl who picked the 60,000th book,” said Jackson. “She seemed to have fun with it and just be happy – and same with us. We just like to bring joy to all these kids.”

Penny Dilg, principal of Russell Dougherty, echoed the players’ sentiments over the kids’ excitement for both the books and the Thunder.

“We held this as a surprise, so they were really excited when they found out this was coming,” she said. “We really want to give children the love of reading, and this shows that they’re learning that. And having somebody like the Thunder come out and reinforce that means everything.”

Presented by American Fidelity Assurance Company, the Book Bus will keep rolling tomorrow, the next day and hopefully for years to come. The need to give out books and foster a love of reading, according to Roy Bishop with American Fidelity, will always be there.

“It shows the commitment of the Thunder and American Fidelity to making sure that kids in the Oklahoma City metro area have an opportunity to get a book and to be able to read,” Bishop said.