On Tuesday evening, the Pacers helped fill the Circle Centre Mall with holiday cheer.
During this year's Shop with the Pacers event, the Blue & Gold teamed up with A Kid Again — a non-profit that hosts fun-filled adventures for children dealing with life-threatening illnesses — to give the kids a once-in-a-lifetime shopping experience. The evening was part of the Pacers' Season of Giving, delivered by Papa John's.
"I can't tell you how many parents emailed me back and said 'Oh my gosh, my kid is so excited.'" said Katie Pappas, the executive director of A Kid Again's Indiana Chapter. "We've got some big Pacers fans in the room for sure. The fact that they're willing to come out and spend an evening with these families, they don't know the impact they are making."
The evening started with some snacks at Granite City, where the families were introduced to their Pacers shopping companions for the night. As players Victor Oladipo, Doug McDermott, Aaron Holiday, TJ Leaf, Cory Joseph, and Alize Johnson arrived, the children were eager for selfies and hugs from their favorite players.
The fun continued from there as the kids split into groups with the Pacers shoppers, Pacemates, and volunteers from Pacers Sports & Entertainment, skipping from store to store with a $200 Simon Malls gift card for each child.
Some stores had surprises for the groups of shoppers, such as customized hats at Lids and a special discount at Finish Line.
"It's a fun time a year," said Pacers forward Doug McDermott of the experience. "We've got a lot of games but you gotta step back and enjoy these moments, it puts everything in perspective a little and it's always good to be in the holiday spirit."
A walk through the hallways of the mall revealed a unique scene in each store. In GameStop, Victor Oladipo was getting some dancing lessons from his group. In Finish Line, Cory Joseph helped his shoppers try on shoes. And in Claire's, Alize Johnson helped pick out the most fashionable items.
After the kids finished their shopping, they arrived at the food court for dinner provided by Papa John's.
"To be able to shop with these kids and put a smile on their face, it means a lot," said McDermott of the night. "It's very special."