Thunder, Kia Dedicate Court of Dreams

November weather in Oklahoma is predictably unpredictable, so when the Thunder, Kia and the Boys and Girls Club of Norman at Center for Children and Families set the date to dedicate an outdoor basketball court, everyone knew that the elements could make or break the event.

Tuesday night’s dedication saw a rain reprieve, but the famed Oklahoma winds swept in with a shiver.

Fortunately, there was enough warm spirit on the court – and enough of a crowd closely gathered around it – to overcome the weather.

The court in Norman marked the 11th basketball court that the Thunder Cares Foundation has either built or renovated. It’s the first one that has been built on a site where no court had previously existed, adding a new element to the recently opened Boys and Girls Club facility.

On hand to help cut the ribbon and break in the court were a few special guests, including a group of kids from the Boys and Girls Club and Thunder players Steve Novak and Kyle Singler.

Once the big scissors had done their job on the ribbon, kids flooded the court for a chance to shoot hoops alongside a pair of NBA players. Singler bent himself down to meet the young players at their level, wildly grinning as he evaded defenders and dove around with a group of kids chasing down a loose ball. Novak kept up a steady stream of sharing encouragement and posing for photos.

“At the beginning, all the kids just wanted to get on the court and play, and I think that’s the coolest part to see,” said Novak. “You know that once today is over and we leave, it’s going to be put to good use.”

Seeing the players in attendance and witnessing the scale of the dedication event, Katie Fitzgerald, executive director of Center for Children and Families, hoped every child felt that their community was making a special investment in them.

“This court is a vital addition to our organization,” said Fitzgerald. “The court will bring fun and great joy to our children and serves as a symbol to the children of our community that the Thunder cares about them and supports their dreams for the future.”

Few of the adults on hand were immune from helping to keep the play going as the evening stretched on. Jesse Herrera with Kia Motors America passed and rebounded as he watched so many young faces light up using the court that Kia, in partnership with the Thunder Cares Foundation, helped to build.

“This is our second court refurbishment project over the last few years (with the Thunder), and seeing the smiles on the kids' faces makes it all worth it. We hope this court provides many smiles for years to come,” Herrera noted.

For the Thunder, the night represented everything that its community programs stand for: fun, fitness and fueling dreams.

Christine Berney, who serves as vice president of Community Relations for the Thunder as well as executive director of the Thunder Cares Foundation, said, “It’s our hope that this court provides a safe, fun place for kids to play – and that it not only helps them stay healthy and fit, but also sparks a passion in them for the possibilities that lie beyond the court.”