Isaiah Reyes, 5, shares his excitement with mom, Sunshine Meneoza, right, as Indiana Pacers’ Pacemate Shania McGee offers Isaiah a Star Wars toy doll Tuesday at the James Roberts Building at Roberts Park.
Pacers reach county kids for ChristmasBy Jeff Stanton/News-Examiner
A few lucky Fayette County children were recipients of a Christmas toy giveaway at an event sponsored by the Indiana Pacers and JAKKS Pacific Toy Co.
Children were invited Tuesday to the James Roberts Memorial Building at Roberts Park to meet Pacers mascot, “Boomer,” and Fever mascot, “Freddy Fever,” along with Pacemates’ Aria Baird and Shania McGee, for a funfilled gathering.
“This is part of our responsibility to use the Pacers’ profile and platform to give back, and what better way to give back than giving kids toys during the holiday season and putting smiles on their faces; it’s just the best of all worlds,” Bill Benner, vice-president of community and public relations for the Pacers, told the crowd.
Local dignitaries including Connersville Mayor Harold Gordon; Chief of Police Carol McQueen; Fayette County Sheriff Joey Laughlin; Dennis Perkins of Higher Praise Worship Center; and Denise Gulley from Fayette County School Corporation, were among special guests welcomed by Benner.
Former Indiana Pacers’ star Darnell Hillman, right, invites children to the front to receive Christmas toys as part of the team’s efforts to reach out to communities on Tuesday. Hillman, known as, “Dr. Dunk,” works in Pacers’ community relations, and has the distinction of winning the 1976-77 NBA slam dunk contest.
Perkins, a retired Connersville police sergeant and former assistant chief of police, is now assistant pastor at Higher Praise Worship Center. He briefly addressed the crowd of about 150 people who braved a breezy 22-degree day to come to the event.
“On behalf of Higher Praise Worship Center, it is truly a blessing to be able to receive those presents, so we thank you, big time, the Pacers and for everyone involved,” Perkins said.
“As a pastor, we always say we need to be that extension of God’s hand, and to be able to see the Pacers reach out and be that extension is so amazing, and we just want to give you a thank you for that.”
Approximately 2,000 toys were donated to local children, said McQueen, who commented, “That’s wonderful, thank you very much. The toys have gone out to at least 16 local organizations.”
“I would also like to thank the Pacers and the Fever for bringing these presents these kids are going to be receive,” Gordon added. “These toys will be a blessing all year long.”
For the eighth consecutive year, JAKKS has donated toys to Pacers Sports & Entertainment (PS&E) for the Pacers, Fever and Mad Ants to distribute among Hoosier children.
JAKKS chairman Stephen Berman and PS&E owner Herb Simon will donate to more than 50 youth-serving non-profit organizations throughout the state. In addition, toys for children in hurricane-affected NBA cities of Houston, Miami and Orlando will be included in the donation. The program began on Dec. 1 in Fort Wayne.