"Shop With the Pacers" a Hit With the Kids, Players

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by Scott Agness

December 10, 2012

Which ones do you like? How much is it? Do they have my size? Let’s go to another store!

Those were some of the things overheard from over 30 children partaking in ‘Shop With the Pacers’ on Monday night at the Greenwood Park Mall. During this Pacers Cares event, in conjunction with Simon Malls, 10 families from the United Christmas Service were treated to dinner, donated by Chick-fil-A, and then shopped with one of six Pacers players, seven Pacemates and other team representatives.

The children were given $150 Simon gift cards and the freedom to decide how they spent it. Each family also received a $50 Kroger gift card, tickets to the Pacers game Wednesday and a gift bag.

One girl wanted a belt while another decided on a ring in the first store. Then it was immediately to Finish Line, a big corporate sponsor of the Pacers, where they each picked out a pair of shoes they liked and received 25 percent off.

It was clear by the kids' faces that they all had a ball.

"Everybody had different things on their wish list," said rookie center Miles Plumlee. "Some got video games and some got LEGOs so we had a good day. We got it all done!"

"Every time we walked by a store, I think they saw something they wanted," Jeff Pendergraph said of the experience. "We had a blast and I think I have a few new little best friends now and it’s been fun to see how hyped they are about everything."

As Pendergraph said, the night wasn’t just about the shopping. Having the opportunity to hang out with professional basketball players, Pacemates, and other team personnel made the kids feel special. It may not have registered with all of them who they interacted with, but they appreciated the attention and the items they wouldn’t have otherwise had. This was one experience that left a lasting impression on the kids and their families.

"I know us hanging around them and going shopping just means a lot," Pendergraph added. "I know they appreciated it a ton and we’re so glad to be a part of it and give back in that way."

George Hill’s group arguably had the best time. He made suggestions of items to purchase, tried things on and even attempted to bargain with a couple stores. At one shoe store (as multiple cameras followed), Hill pretended to have a nationally televised show. No luck.

Leave it to Pacers rookie Miles Plumlee, a Duke University graduate, to take his kids to the bookstore. He, too, enjoyed the evening at the mall.

"I’ve never been on a shopping spree myself so it’s fun to see what they like, what they’re into, give them your input and help make decisions."

The night wrapped up in the middle of a mall, where the groups had their picture taking together with Santa, which captured the unique and privileged experience for everyone involved.

"It’s so much fun to see how excited they are to get a pair of shoes and a couple of toys," Pendergraph said. "That’s what it’s about."

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