by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness – NBA.com
December 12, 2013
30 kids and their families were treated to a special night of shopping with the Pacers Thursday night at Greenwood Park Mall. Each of the eight families – all part of Wish For Our Heroes, a program dedicated to assisting the men and women of the United States active-duty military – were given $50 Kroger gift cards, tickets to a Pacers home game, a photo with Santa courtesy of Instant Memories and a goodie bag. Chick-Fil-A provided meals for the 80 people in attendance
The kids on hand received $200 Simon Mall gift cards to spend how they wished and six Pacers – George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Orlando Johnson, Solomon Hill, Chris Copeland, and Rasual Butler – took them shopping. Finish Line, a marquee partner of the Pacers, took 25 percent off everything to allow their gift cards to go a little further.
There’s a reason it’s one of George Hill’s favorite events and one that he asks to take part in year after year. He enjoys spending time with the families, helping them find neat items to purchase, particularly shoes — all while getting to know them a little bit.
“You get to interact with kids, have fun, and shop with someone else’s money, so that’s always good,” Hill said. “It’s a fun experience. You see the kids smiling, getting to get things that they may not have had at Christmas.”
Rasual Butler, who was out of the league last year, was experiencing this event for the first time. Being the oldest player on the team, he has a unique perspective about NBA and life.
Out of his own pocket, Butler bought shoes for a handful of parents, and treated some moms to bath and body items.
“Anytime you can give back, but particularly to military fans because of all the sacrifices they make for us and our safety, it’s really gratifying just to see them be happy and let them know we care about what they do,” said Butler. “To help the kids just have some Holiday cheer is really cool, and then take some of the pressure off of the parents in having to be responsible for making sure their parents have a good Christmas. It’s also cool when you can help ease that load for people.”
Orlando Johnson had a ball. During the 90-minute excursion, Johnson’s group made stops at sports and children’s stores, along with various kiosks. One young boy was so thankful for a toy helicopter that has a camera on it. Another kid said his new sound activated t-shirt was “wicked cool.”
“It means so much,” Johnson said of the experience. “Just being able to give back to this community because they’ve done so much, especially since I’ve been here. To be able to spend some with these kids and these families, hopefully it’s making their day a little brighter because I know it’s definitely making mine better.
“Walking around, spending time talking to them. Getting to know them a little bit and just seeing what they like. I think that’s the biggest thing I’m taking away from it because it meant a lot to me when I had some of my older cousins or friends that really took time to get to know what I like and cared about what I was interested in.”
Johnson’s group finished up at the candy story, which brought back memories for the second-year play. He rarely had candy as a child.
“No candy, man,” he said. “[My brothers] were strict on that. I would have to sneak away and get some candy myself. I would have to save my money to buy some candy.”
Having family in the military has to be a challenge and everyone, including the Pacers, appreciate what those brave men and women do for our country. For a few hours Thursday night, these families were able to meet players from the best team in the NBA, and be treated to some gifts of their liking.