Westbrook Helps Oklahomans Celebrate Thanksgiving

Pretty soon here, Russell Westbrook is going to be a pro at serving food to those in need.

One night after helping the Thunder serve food to hundreds of homeless Oklahomans at the City Rescue Mission, Westbrook hosted his own special Thanksgiving dinner for children and families at the Boys and Girls Club in Oklahoma City.

Through his Why Not Foundation, which gives back to the community, inner-city kids, families and others in need, Westbrook joined the United Way in sponsoring a full Thanksgiving meal on Tuesday night for hundreds of club members and their families.

“Why Not is an attitude that I live by and I want kids and families to know that they’re able to achieve anything they want and to be able to have opportunities to do things in life,” Westbrook said. “Today is the start of it in giving back to the community.”

A smiling Westbrook joined a row of volunteers to load up dinner plates with turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans and other Thanksgiving delights. The most exciting part of the night, particularly for Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Jane Sutter, was the way Westbrook spread so much energy and joy.

“He served dinner, he got to chat with the families and it was really a special occasion,” Sutter said. “Russell was so amazing. What a nice young man. All of the Thunder players are such great role models for our kids, we are so thankful for that. … He served for a while, then he kind of mingled with the crowd and was just fabulous. We really appreciate him being here.”

The Boys and Girls Club has held an annual Thanksgiving dinner for the past 12 years, and has helped youths in the surrounding area with after-school programs since 1995. To Westbrook, who values family and helping others, joining the United Way and the Boys and Girls Club was a perfect way to make an impact this holiday season.

“Growing up, we always were blessed to be able to have a Thanksgiving,” Westbrook said. “I know everybody wants a Thanksgiving and wants to eat well. Today is one of those days where we can feed families.”

Westbrook also has an extra special connection to the Boys and Girls Club, considering he himself was a member as a child growing up in Los Angeles. The positive, safe environment in Oklahoma City that hosts 325 kids ages six to 18 every day is one that Westbrook could identify with from his own experiences. It was clear to Sutter that his visit made a huge impact among the children, who see Westbrook as someone they can look up to.

“It’s amazing because it says that they’re important and they’re important to him,” Sutter said. “For him to be here and really connect with them, that makes them feel important and know that they have value. They kind of have that bond because they have that Boys and Girls Club experience.”

The event ended with Westbrook strolling from table to table where families sat and ate, giving hugs, high-fives and kind words. As he picked up kids for photos or signed autographs, an increasingly growing crowd of clamoring children from the Boys and Girls Club began to follow him around in a mini-entourage. It was a wonderful site to see, and it made an impact on youngsters like eight year old Lyric Nichols.

“It was special,” Nichols said. “We got to see a Thunder player, got these cool wristbands and got to eat with our families. … I was a little shy, but it was really, really fun. I asked him a lot of questions. A LOT of questions. It was so cool, a bunch of people went over there and talked to him.”

It was a special and intimate moment for Westbrook, whose intensity and relentlessness on the basketball floor is only matched by his passion and love for others off the floor. That attitude is only heightened by the bond he shares with the Oklahoma City community that has embraced him since his rookie year, the Thunder’s first season in Oklahoma. As a result, Westbrook wants to do all that he can to give back to the community that has supported him throughout his NBA career.

“It means a lot,” Westbrook said. “Since I came here, they opened their arms and it has been great. Being here is one of the best places to play in all of sports. These fans are great and it’s a great opportunity.”