Dinner with Santa: Spreading Holiday Cheer

Dinner with Santa presented by Walmart

Check out a recap of the Mavs and 50 kids from Rainbow Days and the Family Place having dinner with Santa!

DALLAS — As part of the NBA Cares Season of Giving, the Mavs unequivocally spread some holiday cheer by hosting 50 kids from Rainbow Days and the Family Place. Walmart graciously supplied each kid with a bag full of presents, and the Oak restaurant provided the space and complimentary dinner for the kids.

As Dallas Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews examined the electric atmosphere at the Oak restaurant recently when the Mavs hosted a Dinner With Santa event, he couldn’t help but reflect on what this all means in the grand scheme of things.

“It’s a chance to give these kids a chance to smile and make their day, make their year possibly, and make their week,” Matthews said. “It’s an amazing feeling.”

“I always try to be grateful, but doing stuff like this and seeing it first-hand, it just makes me really grateful for the good, the bad, everything.”

All of the Mavs players were on hand for the festivities. Also present were the ManiAACs, the Mavericks Dancers, the Mavs’ mascot – Champ – and the team’s newest member, a guide dog for the blind puppy –in-training named Swish.

While the under-privileges kids obviously thoroughly enjoyed themselves, so did the Mavs players.

“You’re spending time with kids that never get to spend nights like this,” guard J. J. Barea said. “The kids had great food, they spent some time with us, and we get to know more about our teammates.”

“I found out a lot about my new teammates – the way they were enjoying it, the way they were participating with the kids. It was awesome and it says a lot about this team.”

Rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. acknowledged that the night brought back memories from when he was just a kid.

“There are a lot of kids that are in poverty in my neighborhood (in Fayetteville, N.C.) – some people I grew up with,” Smith said. “This is something that keeps me humble.”

“You’ve got kids looking up to you, and you want to be a role model for them. So it’s a lot of fun for me to do events like this.”

The Mavs even played some friendly games with the kids. And guess who won their share of games?

“For me, my takeaway is probably the challenge of playing Tic-Tac-Toe,” guard Devin Harris said. “These kids are really good!”

“We had a couple of losses in there.”

Events like Dinner With Santa always bring out the kid in forward Dirk Nowitzki, who was grinning from ear-to-ear every time he had a chance to interact with the kids.

“It’s fun to see the smiles and their passion,” Nowitzki said. “Opening up the gifts is the highlight. They’re all fired up.”

“One kid actually didn’t like his gift, so we switched it and now he’s happy. He had some skating shoes, but he didn’t like them, so I switched it for a gaming headset and he likes that a lot better.”

Judging by the huge smile on his face and the way he was sharing his new Christmas gift with his friends, Keenan Bryson certainly treasured his present.

“It almost has more stuff on it than a phone,” said the nine-year Bryson, who received a tablet. “Plus, it’s bigger and better than a phone.”

Before the kids opened their presents, Santa Claus – he said he’s from “the North Pole” — read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. Santa Claus also praised everyone who put this memorable event together.

“It’s so wonderful to finally get to be part of helping (the kids) out face-to-face,” Santa Claus said. “So often I see them on the 24th (of December), but they’re always asleep, so unless I get to come to an event like this I really don’t get to interact with them very much.”

“So this gives me and Ms. Claus time to actually sit down and talk with the kids a little more. It’s a wonderful program.”

Ms. Santa Claus was also present and helped spread joy and deliver some good tidings to the kids.

“We love kids, and this is a wonderful program,” Ms. Claus said. “You can see all the smiles on these kids’ face.”

“I’ve seen them try to give their gifts away. That’s pretty amazing for kids to think of others like that.”

Barea also recalled how grateful the kids were.

“It was a great atmosphere (at the Oak restaurant), and everybody was having a good time,” Barea said. “There was a lot of energy in there, especially with the kids.”

“So it was just great to be a part of that.”

Throughout the NBA Cares Season of Giving, the NBA, its players and teams will be out in full force in various communities hosting hundreds of charity events around the United States and Toronto. The plan is to brighten the holidays for thousands of families and their children.

“For us to be able to lift their spirits at least for a day, I think it’s great,” Harris said. “The excitement that they have, getting the presents that they ask for, seeing the great look on their face and being appreciative, on top of that, getting to meet us, hopefully this will make their year.”

Nowitzki summed up the uplifting evening best by saying: “I’m happy and glad to hopefully bring these families some cheer and some holiday spirit. It means the world to them and obviously to us.”