The Indiana Pacers hosted their annual Shop with the Pacers event, presented by Simon Malls, on Sunday afternoon at Greenwood Park Mall. The event, part of Pacers Cares and the NBA Cares Season of Giving campaign, provided children and families from Hands of Hope Adoption & Orphan Ministry with a shopping spree and pizza party.
Each of the 30 children in attendance received a $200 gift card from Simon Malls to spend in any store. Finish Line also provided a 25 percent discount, and the families received tickets to a future Pacers game, a Pacers gift bag, and Kroger gift cards.
Pacers players Al Jefferson, Georges Niang, Glenn Robinson III, Rodney Stuckey, Joe Young, and Thaddeus Young each joined a group of kids to help them pick out what they wanted. One member of the Indiana Pacemates and two Pacers Sports & Entertainment employees joined each group as well.
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The players loved the opportunity to be a part of a special holiday memory for those children, and to show a different side of themselves off the court.
"I've got a lot of kid in me," Pacers center Al Jefferson said. "I was very surprised how smart they are when it comes to picking out stuff, because they wanted to go get shoes and clothes. I would want to go right to the toy section."
There definitely were some toys purchased during the outing, and some kids couldn't wait to get them out of the box and start playing with them as they ate pizza after shopping.
Robinson III and Joe Young each participated in the event last year and enjoyed taking part for the second year in a row.
"Coming out here today, again, is just an honor, to come out here and put a smile on their faces," Young said. "[And] having a smile on my face coming out here to do it. I'll do it any day, any year."
"It's a lot of fun," Robinson III said. "You get a lot of kids who really appreciate what we're doing for the community. To be able to give back to them and see them shop [is fun]."
Jefferson, in his first season with the Pacers, has enjoyed getting to know — and getting involved with — the Indiana community.
"It really doesn't surprise me, because this is a basketball state," Jefferson said of the franchise's close connection to the community. "It's a first-class organization, so they do everything the right way."
Community events like this carry a little extra weight for Robinson III, a native of Gary, Indiana.
"Me being an Indiana guy, giving back not just to a community, but my community, it means so much," Robinson III said.
Robinson III also pointed out what these events do for the team as a whole.
"It makes this team better. It just unites us," he said. "It makes us stronger as a team, having six players come here to give back and help out, we love to do that...We have a lot of great guys on the team."