When New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Gordon has events in which he gives back to the community, one of the things he likes most, he said, is seeing the children’s smiles.
However, on Sunday at the Fischer Housing Development Community Center, Gordon wasn’t prepared for this expression of gratitude, as 11-year-old Ronja’ Watson volunteered to do the opening prayer.
“Thank you, God, for people to do stuff like this that’ll help people who are struggling,” Watson said. “They’re trying to help people with their families who don’t have jobs to help them with Thanksgiving Day.”
Gordon separated his left shoulder in Saturday night’s 106-94 win over the Utah Jazz and said he was to meet with a doctor Sunday evening. He said he didn’t know if he would need surgery.
The shoulder was injured at 4:35 of the second quarter of Saturday night’s game at Utah. Gordon was guarding the Jazz’s Trey Burke, who was driving to basket.
“He grabbed my arm,” Gordon said Sunday. “All I know is it hurt real bad.”
Gordon appeared at Sunday’s event with his left arm in a sling, but that didn’t stop him from providing all the fixings so Thanksgiving can be a slam dunk for 25 families of the Fischer Housing Development. Each family received a Winn-Dixie bag that contained a turkey, a can each of peas, carrots and sweet potatoes, a bag of mini-marshmellows and a pumpkin pie.
“It’s something good for the families, so it’s definitely something good to reach out for,” said Gordon, clearly moved and who thanked all the families for coming out. “We’re fortunate as NBA players to be able to help people. It’s uplifting to see, no matter the (circumstance) of (Watson’s) life, he’s on a good path.”
Most of the families were notified Friday by an employee from HANO with a letter saying they’d been selected. Aubry Cage, a mother of three, said a knock on her door came “at exactly 1:27” Sunday. The event began at 2 p.m.
“I wouldn’t have had Thanksgiving without this,” Cage said. “I probably would have gone to my grandmother’s. Now, I can have Thanksgiving at my own house, me and my sister and my three kids.”
Contrary to the public image of those in housing developments, many in the Fischer development have jobs, said Christine Perkins, who works at Bank of Louisiana. Gordon’s donation, she said, is a big help.
We work, but we fall short, and we can’t afford certain things,” she said. “We have a big family. I have six kids of my own and five grandkids. And my sister is down (visiting), and she has six kids, also. It will make Thanksgiving just so much better.”
Kristin Thomas, a mother of four who works at Rouses, said she didn’t find out that Gordon was the benefactor until she came to the event.
“I’m surprised a pro athlete would come here,” she said. “This is really nice.”
Aside from the Thanksgiving bags, bingo games were a big part of the event, with Gordon as the caller. Prizes consisted of two pairs of Gordon’s sneakers and his jersey, all signed by him, and four tickets to the Pelicans’ game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Dec. 2 at Smoothie King Center. The children were taken outside for fun and games and the chance to win one of five autographed basketballs.
There were five winners in the bingo bonanza, with Gordon’s autographed jersey clearly the top prize. Pamela Current wiped away tears as she posed with Gordon holding the jersey.
“My brother watches (Gordon) all the time,” she said. “This is a present for my brother.”
Cage, who won a pair of the signed sneakers, already had picked out a spot to display them.
“I can’t wear them,” she said, laughing. “I’m going to hang them on my wall at home.”
For resident Damian Harris, Gordon’s reaching out touched him twofold. He’s a Pelicans fan, and he recently lost his job, he said.
“This is something I’ll remember to my grave,” he said. “I followed Gordon since his college career. Hopefully, he can help us win a championship.”