Jackson Makes Immediate Impact in OKC Community

As soon as Reggie Jackson had a chance to change out of his suspenders and bow tie, he made himself right at home in Oklahoma City.

Following his introductory press conference on Saturday, Jackson joined a group of representatives from the Thunder and the Boys & Girls Club of Oklahoma County to help open a set of teen rooms recently refurbished by the Thunder Community Foundation.

The ribbon-cutting followed more than a month of planning and work to make over a teen study lounge and game room at the Boys & Girls Club facility on 36th and Western Ave. The rooms were "Thunder-ized" with paint, graphics, inspiring pictures and new furniture. The Thunder Community Foundation also donated a SMART Board, an electronic white board that encourages collaboration and hands-on learning.

The Thunder initiated the project as part of the NBA Cares Community Caravan, a league initiative that seeks to provide kids in teams' communities enhanced opportunities to live, learn and play.

Jackson joined Jane Sutter, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Oklahoma County, in wielding a pair of oversized scissors to cut the ribbon on the two rooms. He then led a group of teens from the Boys & Girls Club into the rooms for the first time since the makeover.

Excitement over the Thunder update to the rooms filled the teens' faces, but they soon adapted and got to work helping break in their new digs.

One of the teens helped Jackson try out the SMART Board, playing a geography game that challenged them to locate all the NBA teams on a map. (He did find Oklahoma City the fastest.)

In the game room, Jackson played a full game of foosball with another teen, laughing as the game ball slid around – and off – the table.

After opening up the teen rooms, Jackson visited the club's gym, where a one-day mini-camp for Boys & Girls Club kids was in progress.

About 35 kids played "follow the leader" on defensive drills, tried to get around Jackson while going in for a lay-up and took turns having the new pro on their team for a dribble-and-shoot contest.

The campers were excited to interact with the team's most recent addition, as well as to be among the first to get Jackson's autograph as a Thunder player – which he signed with his new jersey number, 15.

Jackson noted that his high-school coach hailed from Oklahoma and has family still in the area who are Thunder Season Ticket Members. His old coach filled him in a little on what Oklahoma City is like.

"I love it," Jackson said. "Everything he told me the city was, my experience here so far has been even better."

Dan Mahoney, Vice President of Community Relations with the Thunder, said that the team has a long-standing partnership with the Boys & Girls Club – dating back to the first community event the team held in Oklahoma City.

"To be honest, it didn't take us very long to figure out who we wanted to partner with on this," Mahoney said. "We have been working with the Boys & Girls Club of Oklahoma County now for three years, and it's been a wonderful, wonderful partnership."

Mahoney added that additional donations greatly enhanced the project's scope. Glidden provided all the paint and labor for both rooms free of charge, and local company Signs Now donated a set of large pennant-shaped wall graphics for the game room.

Teens and staff from the Boys & Girls Club exuded joy and gratitude to the Thunder, the Community Foundation and to Jackson.

"The Thunder has brought so much excitement and energy and pride to our entire community, and we are so thankful that the Thunder Community Foundation has brought those characteristics to our teen rooms," Sutter stated.

Sutter said that the SMART Board in particular will help support the club's mission to keep kids engaged in their education and encourage them to remain in school until they graduate. Having cutting-edge technology available outside the classroom can help excite the students about schoolwork and keep them on track to stay in school.

Though the goal of Saturday's event was to reinforce the connection of the Thunder and its newest player with the community, if the goal had just been to make Jackson feel comfortable in Oklahoma City, the event would have still been successful.

Jackson got active with the kids, hanging off of their shoulders, scooping them up in his arms, blocking their shots, shaking their hands and almost constantly sharing a smile. He gave them bunny ears during photos. He raced them to the hoop. He finished the day by dividing them into two groups, having one chant "go" and the other chant "Thunder" when he shook a basketball their way – and cracking a grin every time they couldn't keep up when he switched the rhythm to "go go" or "Thunder Thunder."

Jackson's first statement in the press conference was that he's "just ready to get acclimated in the community." After today, he took a big step toward making himself a part of OKC.