Wolves Take Hope Kids On MOA Takeover
The Wolves couldn’t contain the smiles on their faces. As Nikola Pekovic, J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved and A.J. Price sat next to 15 Hope Kids at Build-A-Bear inside the Mall of America, these imposing NBA players melted while helping provide a day these young children will never forget.
The Wolves took part in Tuesday’s Mall of America Takeover as part of WolvesCare Month presented by C.H. Robinson and the FastBreak Foundation. The event featured 15 children who suffer from long-term or chronic illnesses getting a chance to meet the players, build a stuffed animal from scratch, eat some ice cream and visit the Sea Life Aquarium.
The kids lit up when they got to not only build a stuffed animal but do so with Timberwolves players, and the Wolves took away just as much from the experience as the children did.
“Anytime you can spend some time with kids and crack some smiles and interact with them is awesome,” Barea said. “Especially coming here and building a bear from the ground up.”
Hope Kids Minnesota is an organization that provides an ongoing calendar of events and activities for children who suffer from cancer or other life-threatening medical conditions and their families. There are about 950 families that are part of the program right now, including the ones who participated in Tuesday’s even in Bloomington.
The kids spent about an hour with the players, beginning with 40 minutes at Build-A-Bear where they had the store all to themselves. They congregated up near the Build-A-Bear machine and got introduced to the players before finding which animal they liked best and starting the building process. The Wolves talked with the kids, cracked jokes and helped them get prepared for stuffing the stuffed animal.
After that, the kids and players went out into the store and tried to find just the right outfit for their particular animal.
“I don’t know who was having more fun—the players or the kids,” said Rachel Geraty, C.H. Robinson’s Community Relations Specialist. “It’s so incredible to see the smiles on these kids’ faces—a day away from them not having to worry about doctors, having to worry about medicines. Just having a good time with their families.”
Pekovic, known in the Wolves locker room for having one of the funniest personalities on the team, showcased his playful behavior with the children throughout the afternoon. He even built an animal of his own along with the kids, a suave-looking bear with sneakers, shades and a hat.
Barea and Price did the same, helping the kids pick out the perfect outfits for their animals while also having the kids help them pick out attire for their own animals. Barea made a Red Sox bear for his son, while Price made a pink, purple and blue bear for his daughter.
The fun went both ways at Mall of America.
“We got a chance to send some time with the kids—I’m really glad they got a funny, nice time. We had a nice time, so I’m really happy for them.”
For Hope Kids Minnesota’s Executive Director Brian Anderson, events like this are what the program is all about.
The kids not only get a day with the players that they look forward to leading in; they get a memory they’ll never forget—along with a souvenir.
“They look forward to an event like this with the Timberwolves, and for days and days and days this is all they talk about,” Anderson said. “This is what they look forward to. The treatment is at the back of their minds, and it’s not what they’re focusing on, so it’s great.”
That, for Barea, is the best part.
“For me as a person, I think it’s great for them and it’s a different day for them,” Barea said. “Coming out to a different place, meet somebody else, have some smiles and get a bear. So I think it was a great day for them.”
C.H. Robinson partners with the FastBreak Foundation to sponsor WolvesCare Month, which helps provide initiatives and events like Tuesday’s MOA Takeover throughout the month for kids suffering from long-term and chronic illnesses. They continue to be an organization that helps make the Timberwolves’ goals of community involvement a reality, and Geraty said it’s a proud partnership.
“C.H. Robinson is so excited about the work we do with the Timberwolves—it’s for the exact same reason we see here today,” Geraty said. “They’re about giving back to the community. The players are involved. Just having a good time with their families.”
At events like the Mall of America Takeover, Anderson said everybody wins.
“I saw many smiles on the players as I did on these kids,” Anderson said. “So I think it works both ways.”