The Thunder is always active in the Oklahoma City community, but around the holidays the team and its players make an extra effort.
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On Saturday, Kevin Durant, Kendrick Perkins and the Thunder organization joined Homeland to host a Thanksgiving event at the Urban Mission in Northwest Oklahoma City. The mission supports needy Oklahomans with a grocery-store type atmosphere where families can choose the items it needs. During the holiday season, the mission, the Thunder and Homeland helped ensure these same families have a wonderful Thanksgiving meal.
“It’s very cool just to be a part of the community and know that we’re making an impact,” Durant said. “I’m just happy to see so many families smiling, knowing they’re going to have a great Thanksgiving.”
By handing out frozen turkeys, canned goods, pies and other food items, Durant and Perkins highlighted a day for hardworking families who could use an extra boost during the holiday season. The duo signed autographs, met with children and adults and enjoyed a number of big laughs with the Oklahomans who walked through the doors of the mission.
“It’s always a blessing to just come out and give back to the community,” Perkins said. “I think we do a great job of giving back as far as the Thunder organization. I always think it’s good to see grownups and the kids light up, just to make their day around these holidays.”
The reaction among those who received the food and got to meet two members of the Thunder ranged from awe to outright amazement. Shirley Wright could barely contain tears, laughs and shouts of excitement all at the same after she received her food and got the chance to meet Durant and Perkins. For people in the Oklahoma City community, events like this one are important financially and emotionally.
“This is very nice,” Wright said. “It’s beautiful, it’s a blessing. Totally, totally a blessing. I am so happy, I got dizzy and weak in my knees when I saw them. So it’s a good thing that (the Thunder) is helping.”
This is the fifth consecutive year the Thunder has hosted a turkey giveaway event, part of the team’s annual Holiday Assist program. With the help of homeland, Durant and Perkins, along with the Thunder broadcast team and the Thunder girls handed out 400 Thanksgiving meals. Homeland’s partnership with the Thunder is an important one, reinforced by events like the one on Saturday, according to Homeland Director of Merchandising Steve Burrows.
“It’s really big for us,” Burrows said. “It’s one of the largest partnership deals we do throughout the year with the Thunder, for Thanksgiving. … It seems like each year it gets a little bigger and a little better.”
Not only is this event a vital part of bot the Thunder and Homeland’s way of giving back, but it also is a major boost to the Urban Mission. For the social services organization that helps feed a large number of Oklahomans on a daily basis, the Urban Mission, led by Director Peggy Garrett, has benefited greatly from the partnership with the Thunder.
“The Thunder is amazing,” Garrett said. “It’s been such a great thing to have the team here in Oklahoma City and for them to come out and meet the people, because a lot of these people can’t get to the games, it’s a real treat for them. We’re just so proud that they’re able to partner with us and for their commitment to helping people in the community. It makes a big difference.”
Most of all, the event today helped strengthen the bonds between the Thunder and its players and the Oklahoma City community, which have become stronger and stronger in each of the five years the team has been in Oklahoma. Even in the midst of a busy, grueling 82-game regular season, Durant, Perkins and the Thunder organization recognize the importance of the Oklahoma City community and the people who support the Thunder day-in and day-out.
“It makes you realize the most important things in life,” Durant said. “Just to help these people out on Thanksgiving, around the holiday time is always important to us. To be a part of this community is a blessing. To do what we do is a blessing, and to know that we can touch people’s lives just by meeting them is pretty cool, so I’m glad we got this opportunity.”