Quick heads-up: If you're here for late-breaking news, hard-hitting opinions and hot sports takes, this isn't the post for you — this thing happened several days ago, I don't intend to use any statistics in writing about it, and no one gets called a clownfraud. OK? OK.
A bunch of Memphis Grizzlies visited St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis last Thursday, hung out with kids who are undergoing treatment for cancer and other deadly diseases, and had a tea party with them. I think that sounds awesome; pictures of the party confirm that, indeed, it was.
The visit was part of the Grizzlies' involvement in the league-wide "Hoops for St. Jude" fundraising effort, which raises tens of thousands of dollars each year to help the nation's top childhood cancer hospital make advancements in research and treatment. Lindsay Lanier of Grizzlies.com has more:
As a tip-off to Hoops for St. Jude Week (March 26-30), these children and their families were afforded the opportunity to meet Grizzlies' players Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay, Quincy Pondexter, Dante Cunningham and Hamed Haddadi while the players served them tea and cookies.
While Pondexter, Cunningham and Haddadi decorated cookies with blue and yellow icing for the kids in the main party room, Hoops for St. Jude Ambassadors Gay and Gasol hosted their own gatherings in a room across the hall. Complete with chef's hat and apron, Gay decorated cookies and joked with several kids, while Gasol joined a group of young girls for a tea party complete with cookies and imaginary tea.
Hit the jump for more photos from the Grizzlies' visit to St. Jude's.
The Grizzlies' involvement with St. Jude goes back a ways — the team kicked in $5 million toward the construction and completion of the Memphis Grizzlies House, which opened in 2004. Located on the hospital's campus, the housing facility provides up to 100 families of patients undergoing treatment at St. Jude's a place to stay for between one and seven days, so that they don't have to stay in a nearby hotel. Multiple team members, including Gay and former Grizzlies Pau Gasol and Shane Battier, have served as ambassadors for the Hoops for St. Jude program.
The kids were pretty stoked.
"I saw the most excited kids on the planet," said Rick Shadyac, CEO of the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC), the fundraising arm of St. Jude. "They saw their idols, the stars that they get to watch on television every single day, walk into their housing facility and immediately ran up to them and wanted to get autographs and get photographs taken with them. It was their opportunity to meet their heroes."
The players sure seemed to dig it, too. When you run through the photo gallery, it looks like Gasol might be having more fun than any kid in the room.
"It's not just important to me; it's important to everybody," Gasol told Grizzlies.com.
Every team has charitable affiliations, whether through the league's NBA Cares program or via independent partnerships with local foundations and organizations, that are highlighted in the just-back-from-commercial bits of games that we typically fast-forward through on our DVR. Players, coaches and executives do boatloads of good work that often flies under our radar, especially in comparison to the amount of attention we pay to the not-so-great stuff they do. Doing the former doesn't cancel out the latter, of course, but still, it's important to remember that this stuff often really means a lot to the kids who get the chance to interact with players. In this case, it's just really, really cool to see it matter to the players, too.