Home for the Holidays

One Oklahoma City family may not have many presents under the tree this year, but they will have one big present next to, over and around their Christmas tree.

Nicole Brown and her five children moved into their new Habitat for Humanity home on Dec. 22, and the family says they don’t need anything else this holiday season.

“I can’t ask for nothing else,” Brown said on Thursday at the dedication of her new home. “I’ve got my home, I’ve got my kids – and plus I get to see the Thunder play Christmas night, so I’m really happy.”

Brown and her children will get to share Christmas with the Thunder after the team shared with her the life-changing experience of building her home.

Thunder staff and coaches volunteered at the build site for three days last month, helping frame, drywall and paint what eventually became Habitat for Humanity’s 650th home built in central Oklahoma.

“This family’s been really special for all of us to have the opportunity to get to know and work with,” said Ann Felton, chairman and CEO for Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity. “And having the Thunder involved has just been so much fun for not only the kids and the family, but for all of us too, the staff. It’s really been exciting.”

Of course, most Thunder events aren’t truly exciting until a certain furry bison shows up. Rumble, decked out in a full Santa suit and riding his “sleigh” (the Rumble van), pulled up to the house as the dedication ceremony got underway to visit with all the guests and see the completed house.

“What’s a house dedication without Rumble in a Santa suit?” laughed Christine Berney, director of Community Relations for the team.

Holiday joy definitely ruled the day, as Brown received the keys to her house and she and her children walked the floors of their own home for the first time in their lives, unable to keep the smiles from their faces.

“It is [special], and I feel so special right now. I mean, I’m just – I’m just blessed, I’m just happy,” said the proud new homeowner, searching for words to describe the day’s events.

Two of the Brown children will share a Thunder-themed bedroom, which Thunder staff painted in team colors and decked out with graphics.

When she saw the room, Brown said she “just fell in love with it … I knew I was going to have a Thunder room, but it is gorgeous.”

The boys who will share the room stood in awe and couldn’t describe their excitement; instead, the kids spent most of the morning following Rumble through their home as the mascot gestured happily toward the home’s many features.

Brown knows she is fortunate to have this opportunity to own a home, but Felton noted how widespread the demand is from other families wishing for the same chance.

“There’s a great need out there,” she noted. “Our applications have gone up – we had 900 applications last year, and we were only able to build 41 houses.

“So we’re always looking for funding and partners to help us build more houses to address this need in our community.”

After the tremendous staff response and the reward of seeing the completed home, Berney believes the Thunder will continue to team up with Habitat.

“Really, from our whole staff, it was an amazing experience for us and we’re so happy to do whatever we can to help – with this family, with many more hopefully – and just continue the work that we’re doing out in the community,” she stated.