A Day of Giving

DALLAS –A recent whirlwind day that started with Dallas Mavericks centers/forwards Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber spreading Christmas cheer at Children’s Medical Center ended with guard Wesley Matthews collecting coats, blankets and other warm weather items at three different Raising Cane’s restaurants.

In between, Powell joined guard Devin Harris at Burlington Coat Factory inside Southwest Center Mall as each player donated $2,500 to Pay Away The Layaway to pay off the layaways for nearly 20 families.

First, Powell and Kleber got the very busy day underway when they played games and interacted with the kids at Children’s Medical Center. And don’t for a minute think the kids were the only ones having a jolly good time.

“On a scale from 1-to-10, it was an 11,” Powell said, when asked how much fun he was having. “To spend time with these kids playing games, it’s been a humbling experience just to see how happy they are and how they’re taking full advantage of all the things that they have in their lives and enjoying the holidays regardless of any situation.”

“I’m really grateful to be able to come spend some time with the kids. I really hope it has a positive impact on them because it’s had a humongous positive impact on me.”

One of the patients, 16-year old John Salmeron, said of the appearance by Powell and Kleber: “I think it’s real nice because it brings a lot of hope and joy to the kids, because a lot of them aren’t able to actually go out and experience this and meet actual famous people.”

“I think it’s going to have a good impact on them by knowing that people actually care, especially people who are so famous.”

Kleber realizes the importance of being a positive influence in the community. That’s why he was all-in when asked to go to the Children’s Medical Center.

“We’re smaller celebrities, I would say, so I think if we can help, they really appreciate it and they look up to us,” Kleber said. “We’re professionals and I think we represent ourselves on the court and it’s important to see that we also do it off the court, and I think for kids to see that, hopefully we can cheer them up a little bit.”

The children even taught Kleber how to play a few games.

“I learned a lot of different games, I was pretty bad at everything and I lost a lot of them, but it was fun,” Kleber said. “I don’t have a PlayStation at home, or an Xbox, but I learned today how to do it.”

Thresa Blecher, the director of social work and child life children’s health, liked the energy Powell and Kleber brought when they arrived at the hospital.

“Having the Mavs here is really exciting for our patients,” Blecher said. “It’s no fun to be in the hospital at any time, and especially during the holidays when they’re normally out of school and able to play.”

“So this allows them some entertainment and excitement and gives them something to look forward to during their sometimes boring hospital stay. It’ll be something they brag about to their friends and to their family members.”

After spending time at the Children’s Medical Center, Powell hopped in his car and drove through rush-hour traffic to Southwest Center Mall in South Oak Cliff. It’s there where he joined Harris to pay off some layaway for some families who are in need.

“It’s an opportunity to help people have a little bit better holiday, as far as taking care of their layaway and getting some gifts for the kids,” Powell said. “It’s a blessing to be able to be in this position to help out and it’s always fun to come interact and meet these guys and try to put a smile on their faces.”

Lillie Mae Turman definitely left Burlington with all smiles. She has a 16-month old grandson who is growing out of his clothes as soon as he gets them, which can be costly.

So the financial assistance from Powell and Harris was a major boost for Turman’s family.

“One by one they called us up by name and the players gave us a shopping cart of our items and hugged every single person and took pictures,” Turman said. “Dwight gave a beautiful speech and explained to us how much this meant to them.”

“I just can’t believe this. I’ve put gifts on layaway my entire life and this has never happened to me. I just want to say I am just very grateful, and Go Mavs!”

This is the second time Harris has taken part in the Pay Away The Layaway program.

“We really enjoyed it, so we definitely wanted to come back and do it again,” Harris said. “Any time during the holidays we can help the less fortunate and try to brighten up their holiday season, we’re all for it.”

The contributions from Powell and Harris certainly brought great joy to Yahtiese Ryder, who has four kids that likes to keep up with the latest trends. Ryder has two jobs trying to make ends meet, and one day got a call from a Burlington representative who told her she needed to come to the store in regards to her layaway plan.

“Then I arrived and saw other people in the line, and you could just feel something special was about to happen,” Ryder said. “I didn’t want to get my hopes up though, because I’ve never been the lucky one to have anything done for me.”

“So me and my 4-year-old, Keith, stood with the other families and waited for what would happen. Then all of a sudden Mavericks’ players Devin Harris and Dwight Powell came down with a big surprise and told us: ‘All of your layaway gifts have been paid for. You can take home all your things today because we paid for the entire bill!’ Everyone just started clapping!”

Andrew Willoughby, the store manager at Burlington, said: “The holidays are particularly hard for a lot of our customers. And I think it’s really great that the Mavericks partnered with Pay Away The Layaway to help our customers that in a lot of cases Christmas wouldn’t be the same if they wouldn’t have this partnership.”

“This is one of the most exciting days on the job for me to just see people’s Christmas being made.”

Matthews rounded out the Mavs’ very active day by collecting coats, blankets and other warm items for the less fortunate at three separate Raising Cane’s restaurants. The long day was a no-brainer for Matthews.

“Every time I want to improve any community that I’m in, because I feel like that’s the job not only of athletes, but of people in general,” Matthews said. “You want to better your community and you always start with the youth.”

“You’ve got to give them a chance to take over this world in a positive way and in a great way.”

In addition to collecting warm clothing, Matthews also took time to work the restaurants’ cash registers and drive-through windows.

“My favorite quote was: ‘What’s kicking, you want some chicken,’ “ Matthews asked, while laughing. “I have a newfound respect for fast food.”

“I’ve never had fun smelling like chicken fingers before, but I smell delicious right now.”

Brandon Quinn, the general manger of one of the Raising Cane’s, enjoyed the way Matthews readily engaged with the restaurants’ employees.

“To see somebody of his abilities and stature with the Mavericks and in the Dallas community, and to come and work side-by-side with the crew and to see the community as well, it goes a long way,” Quinn said. “A big thank you to the Mavericks, a big thank you for them to come out here to the White Rock Lake area where we are, and to come to all three locations in general.”

Indeed, it was a very long and busy day for the Mavs.

Mavs rock the kitchen with local children

Normally when you hear a basketball team is cookin’, you envision everyone heating up from the field and sprinting to a victory.

But, Friday afternoon, the Mavericks were actually cooking for real — with Santa hats replacing chef toques — with 50 visually impaired children from DARS Division of Blind Services. The entire team turned out to decorate gingerbread cookies and build pizzas with the kids at Nick & Sam’s Steakhouse in Dallas.

You can imagine some of the hilarity that ensued. Mavs rookie Justin Anderson has a passion for food, and although his smiley face pizza might not appear like the handiwork of a kitchen vet, Anderson said he tries to impress his guests with the presentation element more than anything.

“I have a vision when it comes to food,” he said, “and I think your presentation means everything. So, while I think that this pizza may not taste the best, because it looks the best it has a chance. I really believe that with all the food I make.”

“It’s a unique experience to be out, get away from the court, and have a little fun in the community,” he added.

Although Anderson might have the most nuanced take on cooking of anyone on the team (that’s pure speculation) he didn’t escape typical hazing during the event. Deron Williams, who set up a few feet away from the rookie, told one kid to demand more mozzarella. “Rook, can I get the cheese?” he asked, and Anderson complied.

Chef Samir Dhurandhar of Nick & Sam’s was tasked with readying each station with all the supplies the players could ask for. And while most of them were low-maintenance in terms of the ingredients necessary to put together a delicious pie, some of them — Dirk Nowitzki in particular — needed all the help he could get. The German admitted this was the first time he’d ever put together a pizza from scratch, so in between poking fun at Chandler Parsons’ pizza, Nowitzki turned to his young helpers for assistance. Ever the showman, the seventh-leading scorer in NBA history even tossed some sausage onto his pie from behind-the-back.

Chandler Parsons was especially proud of his creation, turning to Chef Dhurandhar and proclaiming, “Mine looks bangin’!” Nowitzki, of course, disagreed.

Wesley Matthews, meanwhile, was decorating gingerbread man cookies at another table. When finished, his cookie appeared very well-done, and the 2-guard was proud. Unbeknownst to him, however, it was very obvious that his helper, Andrew, did all the heavy lifting in terms of decoration. “I was delegating,” Matthews jokingly pleaded.

Once the cheffing was over, a young girl named Yasmine sang a few bars for the team, most of which recorded it with their phones. She received a heavy round of applause from the players, staff, and other children.

“Rockin’ Around the Kitchen” is part of the NBA’s Season of Giving, which began before Thanksgiving and will last all through the holidays. The Mavs have put on several events, including earlier this week when Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, and J.J. Barea joined 50 kids and single moms for dinner and a gift exchange at the Hilton Anatole’s SER Restaurant. Next weekend, Raymond Felton is hosting 100 kids from the Boys & Girls Club of East Dallas for a few rounds of Top Golf.

Deron Williams and Devin Harris donate 250 turkeys for Thanksgiving

Deron & Devin Turkey Giveaway

Deron Williams & Devin Harris paid for over 250 Turkey Dinners to go to families in need with the help of Albertsons & Buckner International

The holiday season is a wonderful time to spend together with family, and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, families all across North Texas will sit down together to enjoy each other’s company and a meal with all the classic dishes that make the holiday what it is.

This Thanksgiving, as has been the case for six years now, hundreds local families will have a holiday feast courtesy of the Mavericks.

Deron Williams and Devin Harris purchased 250 turkeys for families in need at Buckner International in Mesquite. In addition, the players were there on Nov. 19 to hand out the meals as families drove up to the facility. The result: grateful mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and some genuinely thrilled children.

Albertsons partnered with the players, donating sides like green beans, corn, potatoes, stuffing, and more. Representatives of the grocery chain also joined in with the players, Mavs ManiAACs, dancers, and staff, and Buckner staff as well to stock the families’ cars and trunks full of food to be enjoyed on the best holiday of the year.

“It’s a great feeling, being able to come out and work with Albertsons and provide these families with what will hopefully be a great Thanksgiving dinner for them and their kids,” Williams said.

The point guard, who originally hails from The Colony, said returning to his hometown and becoming active in the community made the event mean a little more.

“It means a lot. It’s just like an added bonus, coming back home and playing for the Mavericks,” he said. “But being able to do this stuff off the court, it makes it that much more special. The community I grew up in and supported me in high school and now with the Mavs, it’s a great feeling to be able to give back.”

The turkey drive was part of the NBA Cares Season of Giving, a program that connects teams and players to their communities in an effort to brighten the holidays for thousands of children and families. This is the sixth year the Mavericks have partnered with Buckner International and the fourth year it’s teamed up with Albertsons.

Devin Harris said the families were very appreciative for the donations, and it was easy to tell just from the smiles on their faces that they truly were grateful. Many took pictures with the players, and some kids even got autographs.

Harris isn’t new to giving back during the holiday season. He took part in this same event last season, joining up with Chandler Parsons. In addition, he’s spent the last several Thanksgiving mornings at local shelters and food banks feeding the homeless and those in need. This year, he said he’s taking his kids with him for the first time.

“Hopefully they’ll enjoy it as much as I do,” he said. “It’s about establishing a foundation and understanding that you have the right and the need to help people, and if you can do so, you should do it.”