Nate Bjorkgren has been busy in the past few weeks between moving to Indiana, putting together a coaching staff, and preparing for the NBA Draft, free agency, and the start of training camp. But the new Pacers coach still found the time too give back on Monday morning, helping Pacers Sports & Entertainment tip off its annual Season of Giving delivered by Papa John's.
Bjorkgren helped load some of the 34,000 toys from JAKKS Pacific Toy Company that will be distributed to more than 100 youth-serving organizations across Indiana during the holiday season. The annual toy drive is in its 11th year thanks to Stephen Berman, JAKKS Pacific President and CEO, and his friendship with Pacers Sports & Entertainment Owner and Chairman Herb Simon.
For his part, Bjorkgren was happy to take part in the event.
"The Pacers are heavily involved in the community and that's the way that I've lived my coaching life as well," Bjorkgren said. "Being involved in the community as much as I can. I'm excited to get to meet the people of Indiana, the families of Indiana."
Bjorkgren was joined for Monday's launch by PS&E staffers as well as La'Toya Pitts, Executive Director of Christamore House, one of the community centers that will receive the toys.
"On behalf of Christamore House, Haughville, the near west side, and all of the organizations throughout the state of Indiana that serve youth, we definitely appreciate everything that Pacers Sports & Entertainment is doing, everything that Herb Simon is doing, and everything that Mr. Berman is doing," Pitts said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the local community, putting extra importance on initiatives like the toy drive that can spread joy to those who need it most during the holiday season. PS&E plans to continue many of its annual Season of Giving programs this year with necessary precautions are being taken to adhere to health and safety guidelines.
The annual Come to Our House Thanksgiving Dinner, presented by US Foods, will take place on Dec. 5, with pre-packaged dinners delivered to shelters across central Indiana in lieu of an in-person dinner at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Local toy distribution activities will include similar safety precautions, and PS&E is still evaluating what other Season of Giving, delivered by Papa John's programs can be safely carried out.