Thunder Quartet Helps Family Renovate House

When Russell Westbrook, Daequan Cook, Royal Ivey and Eric Maynor bounded up the front steps of a modest southwest Oklahoma City home on Saturday afternoon, they quickly found they weren’t the only basketball players under the roof.

As a part of Rebuilding Together, an organization that does free home repairs for needy families, the four Thunder players helped paint and renovate the home of 58-year old Sheila Turner, who is raising five grandchildren by herself in addition to working and volunteering for Visiting Angels, an Elder Care Services community group. All five grandchildren were at the house, but the conversation was quickly focused on Turner’s 14-year old granddaughter and high school basketball player, Dorothy Garner. The well-spoken Garner and the rest of Turner’s family admired the Thunder guards’ handy work and pitched in. It was a great day for Garner to see the players take the time out of their busy schedule to make an impact on an extremely special family.

“My granny is a really blessed woman to take responsibility,” Garner said. “She’s really a great woman. She’s blessed and it’s a lot for her to be as old as she is and trying to make sure we get financially supported and everything without any help. I really appreciate the guys doing this for us. It’s a big thing for us, because we really needed the help in our house.”

Not surprisingly, the Thunder players immediately got their hands dirty and got to work. Cook and Ivey took to the living room first, which was ready for them to use their height and long arms to paint. In fact, where most people might have needed a ladder, Ivey was able to reach up to the top of the wall and into the corners with ease to touch up the paint job. Despite all this, Cook and his gregarious self couldn’t help but rib his teammate and jokingly give him a hard time about his painting skills. Both of Ivey’s parents are artists, so Cook laughed at Ivey, saying, “I hope you didn’t take any art classes!” Always the jokester, Cook also proceeded to warn a Building Together staffer that she was getting dangerously close to having a “beige hair-do” thanks to the paint. Just like the switch in his demeanor from the locker room to the basketball court, Cook turned quite serious when talking about Sheila Turner and the way she has taken care of her family.

“She’s doing a great job with these kids, helping to raise them,” Cook said. “We’re just trying to show how much we appreciate the things she’s doing… She’s putting her all into it and we’re just coming in over here to show our support as a team.”

While Cook and Ivey took up the painting responsibility, Westbrook and Maynor were learning how to remove old windows from the frame in order to replace them with brand new windows. Whether it was using all of their strength to hammer in a screwdriver to get leverage or using all their might to shimmy and pop the old frame out, there was good, old-fashioned elbow grease being used by Westbrook and Maynor in the spare rooms. Maynor also spent some time talking with Garner, and they bonded over the fact that they both have torn their ACLs this season. Garner said she tore hers when she was driving in the lane, but that she won’t be scared to go back into the paint. It was easy to tell that Garner’s mental strength struck a chord with Maynor as he explained why he and the Thunder enjoy these community events.

“I think it’s important because we come out and help people out and then they support us at games,” Maynor said. “Without their support, we wouldn’t be as successful as we are at winning games at home. We have a great fan base, I think the best fans in the NBA, so we love coming out here in the community and helping out.”

For Turner and her family, the energy and effort that the Thunder players brought was a big ray of light. Regardless of any difficult times, Turner’s family is rich in youthful excitement, ambition, politeness and love. One of the grandchildren said that he wants to be a chef when he grows up, even adding that he cooks almost every day and that his specialty is beef- he can make it just to the exact taste his family members desire. It’s earned him the nickname “Chef Boyardee”, but he hadn’t heard the nickname “Grill Master” until Saturday and it seemed he liked it. With the house abuzz with activity because of the kids and Thunder players, Turner took a minute to recognize just how special the week had been, considering Thunder employees helped do major renovations to the house earlier in the week. She also disclosed that she may have let the cat out of the bag about the big day with the players a tiny bit ahead of time, but only because of excitement.

“They were really surprised,” Turner said of her grandchildren. “I kept this a secret. A little bit came out, especially with Dorothy, the basketball star. For the most part, it was really a surprise… (It’s been the) best day. Even on a rainy day, the sun is shining over at my house.”