Brie Teel said her children were pumped all day long. Someone told her to show up to Academy Sports + Outdoors in Dallas for a big surprise. They never expected the night to change their lives entirely.
“We thought we might get a t-shirt or maybe even a hat,” Teel said. “We never imagined this. It will take me a few days to comprehend what happened here. I’m still in shock.”
The Teel family — along with several more North Texas families in need — received a surprise of a lifetime Monday night when Mavs’ superstars Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber, and Josh Green rolled into Academy.
The players served as personal shoppers with the children to celebrate the Season of Giving, the gifts and funds all courtesy of Academy Sports Store No. 78.
Each year, the Dallas Mavericks join NBA teams around the country to bless children and families through the spirit of the holidays. Community and servanthood leadership has long been a staple of the Dallas Mavericks. The holidays just allow the franchise to take it up a notch and Monday night was special in countless ways.
“We’re about to have fun tonight,” said James Messer, the store director at Academy Sports + Outdoors. “We’re going to give yall a $1 thousand dollars to go out and spend! Does that sound good?”
The children stood in utter shock at the announcement, while the mothers remained speechless.
Then it was off to the races and looked like a scene from a game show. The families had 30 minutes to get as much as they needed — or wanted. Whatever their heart desired went into the basket.
Kleber moved swiftly and weaved through the aisles with a young boy as they shouted out shoe sizes.
Meanwhile, Powell was tucked in the corner picking out the perfect bicycle helmet and gloves for another child. Powell patiently worked with the youth, and together they went through all the inventory as a team. The NBA vet recognized that moments like this might never come again for the boy.
For Mavericks second-year guard Josh Green, the shopping spree reminded him why he loves this game.
“We wouldn’t be the Mavericks without the people of Dallas, without the fans,” Green said. “So I think being able to give back to them and show support to them — just as much as they show to us — is very important.”
A NIGHT TO REMEMBER
Teel was near tears at the end of the night when we talked in the parking lot. The young mother was still stuffing bags and goodies in the back of her car. Her two children hung over the back seat and watched with giant smiles. They still seemed a bit shocked from the night.
Hopeful Solutions selected her family to participate in this year’s event. The nonprofit helps mothers sustain sobriety, gain financial stability, and maintain self-sufficiency.
Natalynne Walton is the founder and executive director at Hopeful Solutions. She was a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, voted DISD Teacher of the Year, and has a Master’s in Education. Then the disease of addiction gripped her life.
“Instead of prosperity, my addiction took me to a place of emotional, spiritual, and physical bankruptcy,” said Walton. “It was not until I reached a place of extreme hopelessness that I realized that jails and institutions were not a part of the vision my mother had for me. In June 2003, I began a new journey that involved walking a totally different path. Through prayer, my vision became clear. I wanted to give women and children the same hope, comfort, and stability that had sustained me growing up. It was with this vision that Hopeful Solutions was born.”
Now she restores dignity to women who are overcoming the challenges of substance use and are in long-term recovery living with their children.
Her vision to create Hopeful Solutions is how all the families arrived at Monday’s event.
Walton stood back and watched the excitement unfold before her eyes. She’s had a front row seat to all the hardships and challenges the families faced over the years. Now, joy had certainly cometh.
The kids received everything imaginable from new bikes to fresh shoes, name-brand clothes, weights, and whatever else they wanted.
When given a large shopping spree, most kids would be off to the races. Not these children. They come from the most dire situations and shopping is foreign to them. They had no frame of reference even to dream or imagine what to pick during the shopping spree.
That’s when the players stepped in to help. They talked to the kids and helped them pick out new shoes and taught them how to properly measure their feet.
Teel explained that her kids rarely ever receive many gifts for the holidays, much less anything new. This was life-changing and Academy Sports was like Disney World to them. She plans to wrap many items so the kids have something to open on Christmas morning.
Of course, the players brought plenty of laughter and humor to the night.
“One of my kids wanted a Luka Doncic blanket,” Josh Green joked. “It pained me to put that in the basket.”
Green was excited about all the kids getting Crocs. Fans might remember that he wore a pair of golden-colored Crocs when he won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
None of the kids at the shopping spree knew anything about colorful clogs, but they followed Green’s lead with wide eyes. Lots of Crocs flew into the baskets. The kids were oblivious to who the players even were. They just loved hanging out with someone older, taller and made them feel special.
“That’s the best part,” Green said. “They’re the heroes, not us.”
Another mother at the event was resourceful and crafty. She told us her children were out of underwear and it’s hard to afford them with the kids growing at a fast rate. The players gently explained how long tights can do the trick, especially in winter. The mom was thrilled as she searched for all the right sizes at Academy. It was a moment that reminded us just how meaningful the shopping spree was for the families.
POWELL: ‘I GREW UP WITH A SINGLE MOTHER, SO I KNEW THE STRUGGLES’
Dwight Powell is the longest-tenured member of the Dallas Mavericks, and every year, he’s been intentional about giving back during the holidays. He was 23 when he first arrived in Dallas. Seven years have flown by, and the passage of time has only deepened his desire to impact even more families.
“Individually, all of us share the same commitment in serving, and this is important to us,” Powell said. “We love to be in situations like this and help brighten their days. The fact that we get the opportunity to do this is huge.”
Powell also made a $10,000 donation to Pay Away The Layaway, to help additional families in North Texas pay off their balances for the holidays.
He does many other things for the community that people rarely hear about (including us). In the past, Powell rocked newborn babies. He reads to children. He has the Dwight Powell Children and Family Support Fund.
Then, he steps out to serve countless other people and never tells another soul.
That’s the way he prefers its though.
The Academy event was an extension of all the other work he does. Plus, Powell said, it was special for him to serve with Green and Kleber. Powell also had the chance to remember how his late mother fueled his desire to capture each day and make the best of it.
“I grew up in a single-mother household, so I knew the struggles around this time of year, to make it seem like everything was easy,” Powell said, reflecting on the memory of his late mother, Jacqueline Weir.
She never got to see her son play an NBA game, but Jacqueline’s spirit continues to shine through her only son. Powell didn’t see poverty at the level of these kids. But he does recognize heartache and challenges. He knows what it’s like to have a mom that would do anything for her child.
“As a kid, I was very fortunate that my mother tried to make it work,” Powell explained. “But I know not every kid is not as lucky as that. I know there’s a lot of families out there that want to make sure their kids have that special moment. So to be able to help these families do that reminds me of how special it was that my mom was able to pull it off.”
Kleber, who is one of Powell’s best friends, was also at the event. Lately Maxi has asked not to do interviews because he wants to the spotlight to shine on others. It’s a situation that we’ve seen play out over the years. Many players want to dim their voices to amplify the sound of others’. Powell has been through something similar.
“Maxi is one of the most genuine people that I know,” Powell said. “He doesn’t live for applause. He prefers to stay in the background right now and let the story be about others.”
The Holiday Shopping Spree was part of the Season of Giving – the NBA and Dallas Mavericks’ commitment to brighten the holiday season for thousands of children and families.
After a particularly challenging year for the community, the Dallas Mavericks continue their unwavering support for those in need throughout North Texas.
Monday’s event was organic and memorable for everyone who attended — and watched.
It’s truly the most wonderful time of the year.
“One of my hobbies is being able to make kids smile and help them,” Green shared. “So I think having an opportunity to be here makes their day, but makes my day as well.”