Award has miles for Leonard

Kawhi Leonard was at a local theatre in December to watch “The Lion King” with his mother, when he found out children from Respite Care of San Antonio were attending the same show. Plans to duck in and out of the theatre were scrapped, as Leonard spent a few extra minutes visiting with the kids, many who have special needs.

“He’s actually very talkative with children,” said Pearl Williams, who has worked with Respite Care for 28 years. “He’s got a great smile, and he’s so personable. The kids love him.”

Leonard was the same way with America and Santiago on Thursday, who are two children from Respite Care that came to the Spurs’ practice facility to see Leonard accept the KIA Defensive Player of the Year trophy.

When Leonard was awarded the trophy, it came with keys to a 2016 KIA Sorrento for Leonard to donate to a charity of his choice. He’s gifted it to Respite Care.

Respite Care provides aid for children with special needs who have been taken into protective custody as a result of abuse and neglect. The car will help take children to doctor’s appointments, foster homes and field trips.

“The trophy’s probably going to collect dust, but the vehicle is going to come in handy,” Leonard said “Respite Care needs that car to transfer kids and give them a chance to see a better side of life.”

Leonard was gracious in accepting the trophy, but quickly moved on to getting back to work as the Spurs and Clippers are tied 1-1 in their first-round series. The car, meanwhile, will be put to use by Respite Care for the next 15 years.

Bert Pfiester, president and CEO of Respite Care, said the small charity takes care of about 60 children at any given time, many with mental disabilities, autism, seizure disorders or physical injuries.

“Some of our kids have come to us straight from the hospital,” Pfiester said. “For Kawhi to make this gesture, he’s holding these kids high, and many of these kids have never had someone think of them.”

The program has to make an average of about 30 doctor appointments a week, and the average car in Respite Care’s fleet has 150,000 miles. This will be the first new car the foundation has had since it opened in 1987.

They’ll also use the car to take kids on field trips to museums, the zoo, and even a few Spurs games.

Leonard is just one Spurs player who has a relationship with Respite Care. While Becky Hammon was a player with the WNBA’s Stars, she asked fans to donate to Respite Care as a birthday gift. 

“This gift is going to go such a long way,” Williams said. “It’s a miracle for us.” 

For more information about Respite Care of San Antonio, please visit RespiteCareSA.org