By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — When a EF-5 tornado hit Moore on May 20, help poured in from around the country.
Among other organizations, the Oklahoma City Thunder have been front and center in supplying support to the Moore community. That included donating to rebuild public outdoor basketball courts at Briarwood and Plaza Towers elementary schools.
The Thunder continued its involvement Wednesday when the entire team played Santa Claus as they hosted its annual Holiday Assist Shopping Spree, and took 10 families directly affected by the Moore tornado on a holiday shopping spree at a Target in north Oklahoma City.
“It means a lot to all of us,” Thunder forward Kevin Durant said, “being able to give back to the community. We all take pride in it. It’s my favorite time of the year. I am very grateful to get this opportunity.”
Each family was given $1,000 and assigned a player to take around the store and help them pick out any items they wanted. Durante had a pair of brothers.
Kendrick Perkins had 5- and 4-year-olds Alexander and Brian Dunn, who told him they get mad sometimes that they lost all of their stuff in the tornado. Perkins responded by telling them it’s OK to get mad sometimes.
“I always think about, ‘What if it happened to me? Wouldn’t I want someone to do the same for me?’” Perkins explained. “We’re always doing it from the heart.”
Nick Collison shopped with 5-year-old Annie Garbelman who knew exactly what she wanted.
“She got 12 Barbies,” an amazed Collison said. “She just kept throwing Barbies in the cart. She knew right away that’s what she wanted. She went straight to that aisle. That was quickest I have ever seen it. She just kept throwing them in. We ended up getting a winter coat, so I felt somewhat responsible. It was one of the most fun things I have ever done.”
This was the sixth consecutive year the Thunder have provided shopping sprees. In the past, it was usually for grandmothers so they could provide for their grandchildren. Because of the devastation of the May 20 tornado, they wanted to change it up a little.
All the families have been working with Sunbeam Family Services since the May storms. The sixth annual event is part of Thunder Holiday Assist.
“It’s one of my favorite things we do here,” Collison said. “With all the stuff we do in the community, its my favorite. It’s fun to see kids first hand how happy they are. It makes Christmas a lot better for these families. They’ve been through a lot this year,” Collison said. “A lot of them lost their toys, so to be able to replace some of that and make Christmas a little better means a lot.”
While the toys, clothes and games were important, getting to spend time with members of the Thunder and Thunder girls made the event special for the families and the players.
“It’s special because, I think no matter what happens in life, I don’t know if you ever plan to be in a position where spending time with other people and giving back means so much to someone else,” Derek Fisher said. “I think it’s always humbling to have these opportunities.”
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