Alex Lowry

Donovan Mitchell surprises Utah high school students with another charitable act

by Aaron Falk

KEARNS — The teenager looked down at the huge sneaker in awe. It was red and black and, most importantly to Kearns High School student Sarah Gatluak, it had just been signed by Donovan Mitchell.

“It means a lot,” she said. “I almost cried.”

Gatluak was one of a few hundred students at the west-side school who were called to the auditorium for a mysterious assembly on Tuesday. When they arrived, the Utah Jazz star was waiting for them.

“I just wanted to give back to you guys for your hard work,” Mitchell told the students. “I’m really proud of you guys.”

For their academic progress, they would get T-shirts and backpacks and, for a lucky few, some autographed shoes. Mitchell also promised there would be more rewards coming for them over the next several months.

“It’s dope, man,” said 16-year-old junior Eloy Thomas. “It’s dope what he’s doing for his community. To see him come here and do this for us is really nice.”

“I was blown away,” said Emmanuel Andrews, a senior on the school’s basketball team. “This dude’s really here. He just shook my hand like five times. It was really amazing. You don’t even know right now.”

The assembly for a group of students who had maintained or substantially improved their grade point averages was a surprise. At this point, however, there can be nothing surprising about an act of generosity from the budding Utah Jazz star. Throughout the summer, Mitchell has found ways to connect with fans in Utah, to help them, to inspire them.

The iPhone

When Jazz fan Andrew Simeona’s little brother went to a downtown Apple store with a busted iPhone, he quickly discovered he wouldn’t be able to afford the repair. That’s when a man with whom he’d been chatting took care of the bill. It turned out to be Mitchell.

“All love,” the Jazz guard wrote after Simeona had shared his brother’s story on social media. “Glad I could help!”

It was a simple thing for Mitchell, but it left a lasting impression on Simeona and his family.

“It’s always cool when you hear these stories about people doing a good deed and it’s not for any sort of credit,” the Jazz fan said. “He’s a high-character guy. He’s in this situation and he acts exactly how you think he might. It just confirmed what I thought of him.

“Our family, we’re all Jazz fans. We’re born and raised in Utah and we’re super proud of that. It means a lot to us to have someone come into the community and get so involved and be so proud of the fact that he plays for the Jazz and lives in Utah. That sort of thing means a lot to us.”

 

The Photograph

 

Ty Hafen had just finished lunch with his young daughters when they spotted the Jazz star walking into the same downtown Salt Lake restaurant earlier this month. At first, the man was hesitant to bother the player, but then one of his girls, Maya, pointed out her favorite player.

Maya, 10-year-old from Kanab, is in the middle of treatment for a cancerous tumor. That day was one of her first as an outpatient at Primary Children’s Medical Center and she had been self-conscious about her appearance after just recently shaving her head. But when Mitchell agreed to take a photo, the young girl beamed.

“It really lifted us all up,” Hafen said.

After taking the picture, Mitchell then quickly ran to his car and brought back a pair of shoes to sign for Maya. Hafen, meanwhile, sent the photo to a friend and fellow Jazz fan, who posted the image on Instagram. The picture and story were quickly picked up by media outlets across the nation.

“She now doesn’t mind getting her picture taken,” said Josh Terry, Hafen’s friend. “In my opinion, that small act of kindness was more than Donovan will realize. That day, Donovan was Maya’s angel.”