The Los Angeles Lakers celebrated the 13th annual “Season of Giving” Thanksgiving Dinner presented by East West Bank at the Frank Hotchkins Memorial Center in Los Angeles on Saturday. The Los Angeles Fire Department training facility was transformed into an enchanted site for local L.A. youth to take part in carnival games and eat a complimentary Thanksgiving meal served by Lakers’ Quinn Cook, Dwight Howard, and Jared Dudley.
“I’m just very grateful to be able to have the position that we have to be able to play basketball at the highest level, but also to be able to give back to our communities so it’s amazing,” said Howard. The Lakers’ center has started out the season positively impacting the team every time he touches the court but shared these off-the-court moments are priceless.
“You only live once, while you have this time on Earth enjoy it,” Howard continued. “I just went out there and gave the city everything I had and we got the win,” said jokingly when asked about blocking kids’ shots as they attempted to make baskets over Howard.
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“I tried to shoot over him but he was too tall,” laughed 12-year-old Alexis Barragan, who was a member of the Asian Youth Center after school program. She along with children from various youth enrichment programs around the greater Los Angeles area including Boys & Girls Club Pasadena, Boys & Girls Club West San Gabriel Valley, LAPD Watts Skills Academy, Legacy LA and Mixed Roots, attended the event.
The Thanksgiving dinner was catered by Lucille’s Smokehouse BBQ and included all of the holiday staples from southern stuffing and sliced ham, to garlic mashed potatoes and sweet potato pie.
The event was fit in between game days for the Lakers who played on Friday (vs. and Sunday (vs. ). Despite the event’s timing being in the midst of the season, Cook emphasized how rewarding it was for him to connect with the Los Angeles community and to give back.
“I think these things are more important just trying to give back, getting our faces out here in the community and put smiles on the kids’ faces, put smiles on their parent’s faces is always worth it,” remarked Cook. “Whatever we’re doing, we want to sacrifice and give back.”
Lakers’ forward Jared Dudley recalled the impact that the late Junior Seau, NFL Hall-of-Famer, had on him when the former San Diego Charger visited Dudley’s high school. He shared how meaningful it is to pay that forward given his platform as an NBA veteran.
“For us to be able to come out here and serve and try to put a smile on their faces, they might not remember my name but they’ll always remember a Laker player came here and helped serve them, and that’s a lasting impression,” Dudley expressed.
Since 2000, the Lakers have used a “Season of Giving” to assist thousands of children and adults. The Thanksgiving feast jumpstarted this year’s slate of “Season of Giving” events that will include a Thanksgiving turkey giveaway and a holiday part for kids.