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On Sunday afternoon, members of the Wizards and entire Monumental Basketball organization teamed up to host Thankful Meals, a community outreach program at Entertainment and Sports Arena ahead of next week’s Thanksgiving holiday. Athletes, coaches and staff from the Wizards, Washington Mystics, Capital City Go-Go and Wizards District Gaming distributed hot meals, courtesy of Henry’s Soul Food Café, and other goods to those in need.
In addition to the meal’s distributed by the organization, a number of Wizards players provided Ward 7 and 8 residents with even more. Bradley Beal conducted his “Beal’s Turkey Assist” event, joined by student athletes from Ron Brown College Preparatory High School, giving away turkeys to the first 500 guests in attendance.
“It just means the world,” Beal said. “We are so much bigger than basketball players and businessmen and businesswomen…At the end of the day, we serve a great community here in Ward 8. These people depend on us and they come support us night-in and night-out. They buy our jerseys, they come to the games, they’re around the facility. I love the holiday season. It’s all about being with your family and giving back and spending time with your loved ones.”
Thomas Bryant distributed winter weather gear, including gloves, socks and beanies. Aaron Holiday and his wife, Ashli, gave out hygiene kits and Kyle Kuzma supplied treats courtesy of Goodies Frozen Custard & Treats.
“They come to support us so obviously we’re here to support them,” Holiday said. “It’s great to meet everybody that comes through, see everybody’s faces, see how excited they are. It just warms your heart. I’m thankful to give back.”
Beal, Bryant, Holiday and Kuzma were joined by Wizards president and general manager Tommy Sheppard, head coach Wes Unseld Jr., Deni Avdija, Daniel Gafford and Cassius Winston. Alysha Clark represented the Washington Mystics while Capital City Go-Go general manager Amber Nichols, head coach Mike Williams and guard Jordan Goodwin participated as well. Patrick Crossan, Andrew McNeil and JustAwkward represented Wizards District Gaming and Monumental Sports & Entertainment Founder and CEO Ted Leonsis made a financial contribution to support the outreach.
“It means a lot,” Holiday said. “Giving back is something our family loves to do. Our parents got that in our minds early. Always give back and help when you can. It’s easy for us to do and I feel like its’s really good for the community.”
After a season in which teams were separated from fans entirely, players participating in Sunday’s event highlighted how rewarding it was to be back in person with the members of the local D.C. community – and to see the difference their giving could make in real time.
“It’s been tough (being away from fans),” Beal said. “I love giving back every year. Even with my Ron Brown students, I haven’t seen them in a year. It’s been tough not being around them and being able to interact as much as we would like…It’s been amazing. People see your face and they just light up…Everybody is appreciative and that’s the thing that is most heartwarming.”