Thunder Players, Coaches, Staff Give Back for Thanksgiving

The staples of Thanksgiving dinner are turkey, stuffing, vegetables and pie. The Oklahomans at the City Rescue Mission in downtown Oklahoma City, however, got an extra special addition to that Thanksgiving menu when the entire Thunder team, coaching staff and basketball operations staff served them an early Thanksgiving dinner.

To kick-start Monday’s dinner, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Eric Maynor served food as 400 homeless Oklahomans received a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner thanks to the Thunder and the Food Bank. The second shift of servers included Nick Collison, Kevin Martin, Reggie Jackson, Daniel Orton and Head Coach Scott Brooks, while the rest of the Thunder players and coaching staff interacted with the people at the Mission.

“We’re just here to put a smile on their faces and interact with them and everybody just have a good time,” Martin said. “Around the holidays, that’s all it’s about… I’m just thankful to be able to touch other people’s lives in a positive way.”

Even after only four full seasons in town, the Thunder’s bond with the Oklahoma City community is strong and one of the strongest examples is at the City Rescue Mission, a place the Thunder has helped renovate over the years. There are 640 beds for homeless members of the Oklahoma City community, and the City Rescue Mission’s President, Tom Jones, couldn’t be more thrilled about the event on Monday, only three days before Thanksgiving.

“It’s Thanksgiving of course and the holiday season,” Tom Jones said. “Just having the Thunder select the City Rescue Mission as one of those agencies that they want to come out and support, it is amazing to us… For one moment in time, they just feel so valuable because the players, the team and the Thunder girls and the coaches, they all come out and (they’re) just in amazement.”

The players and coaches visited with the people who are staying at the mission, and also had a chance to play some basketball with the children who use the Mission’s resources and gym on a regular basis. The Thunder knows the fan support it receives every night at Chesapeake Energy Arena and throughout the city is some of the best in the NBA, and as members of the same community, it’s a wonderful chance to give back.

“It’s fun, I think they’re excited about seeing the players,” Sefolosha said. “I know a lot of them watch the games on TV, and just to be able to sit with them and talk to them for a little bit, I think it makes a huge difference…I think it’s always good to be around that kind of environment, it keeps us grounded and it makes us want to do more for the community.”

The Thunder has made a concerted effort to be active with the homeless in Oklahoma City, particularly at the City Rescue Mission. Last June, the team made a special visit to the Mission during the NBA Finals, creating a learning center and library for the people who utilize the facilities. As a fixture in this community, the Thunder has made its mark at the City Rescue Mission and particularly with the children.

“We have a lot of organizations that partner with us, but there is not another organization that has an impact in the lives of the kids,” Tom Jones said. “We have thousands of volunteers that come down and work, but the fact that the Thunder, as popular as they are, would want to come hang out with some homeless folks…they are just so excited. It has been electrifying all day around here.”

Monday’s event is a part of the Thunder’s commitment to making an extra effort to give back throughout the next month through its Holiday Assist program. With Fit Clinics, Book Bus and Homeland shopping sprees, the Thunder and its players maintain a consistently high presence during the season, but the special Thanksgiving dinner at the City Rescue Mission was an extra sign of how much the Thunder cares about its home city, something rookie Perry Jones has picked up on early into his rookie year.

“It’s important for us to give back to the community and put a smile on the people’s faces while we’re out here,” Perry Jones said. “It just shows them that we’re a part of the community as well and we’re going to give back as much as possible and do what we can to help.”