As part of the 15th Holiday Assist, Chet Holmgren is hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for Oklahoma foster families
Watch: Chet Holmgren serves Thanksgiving to foster families
Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren may be sidelined for the season through injury but that didn’t stop him and his family from getting into action over the holidays.
Thanksgiving has always been a big deal for the Holmgrens. In Minneapolis, they typically welcomed more than 100 guests over a two-day period to enjoy the holiday meal. It was a cherished annual time to gather with friends and loved ones over a delicious dinner to say thank you.
Now, as a new member of the OKC community, Holmgren couldn’t wait to bring that same heartfelt tradition to his new city. On Tuesday night, as part of the 15th Holiday Assist, the rookie hosted foster families from Citizens Caring for Children for a Thunder Thanksgiving feast.
“Every year I have had a great Thanksgiving dinner with my family. It was always a great time,” said Holmgren. “I’m in my new city now. This is my new family in Oklahoma City. So I figured I’d try to do the same for some people this year.”
Eight foster families from Citizens Caring for Children — an organization that cares for children living in foster care in central Oklahoma and surrounding counties — made their way to Thunder’s corporate office for the dinner celebrations.
Holmgren and his family approached the evening with the same excitement and anticipation as they do at their annual Minneapolis celebrations, where everyone helped with the preparations. In fact, Holmgren’s sisters were responsible for the intricate centerpieces that adorned each table, as well as the selection of delicious cakes at the end of the buffet line.
The savory aroma of turkey, gravy and green beans greeted each family as they entered the room. Rumble the Bison surprised the kids with hugs, high fives and some mischievous antics. Jars of crayons stood next to coloring books at each table—an idea Chet had to keep the kids entertained before dinner started.
As Holmgren entered the room to greet the families before dinner, a hush settled over the group as they soaked up the presence of the 7ft individuals. Chet made a few quick comments – realizing that long speeches before a delicious meal aren’t a recipe for a captivated audience. Before dishing everyone out for dinner, Holmgren had only one rule: no one should leave hungry.
The rule seemed simple enough, but for a roomful of foster children and families, it was a rare and meaningful invitation to eat and indulge as much as your heart desires.
“Children who live in foster care face a lot of insecurity,” said Lynn Roller, executive director of Citizens Caring for Children. “For them to come to an event like this and be surrounded by someone like Chet, the Thunder staff and other people who show them that they matter, that people care about them and want them to have fun and be in are capable of raising a child like any other child.”
With their hands free and a fully stocked Thanksgiving buffet in front of them, the kids walked away from the line with overflowing plates and equally large portions of dessert. Stacks of chocolate cakes and tarts topped with mounds of whipped cream were delicately balanced by little hands as they walked back to their table.
After grabbing a plate himself, Holmgren sat down at a table with five children of different ages. They laughed and smiled through their forks while discussing basketball and the NBA.
On his second helping, Chet walked over to a table across the room. This time, the conversation turned to Oklahoma and learning more about foster care — all while bonding over a shared appreciation for good food.
“It was great to meet all the families here and a lot of kids,” said Holmgren. “They have a lot of questions about basketball and sports. I think it’s great to meet them and meet some of the people from the new city that I’ll be staying in for a while.”
The 19-year-old served more than plates full of food. Holmgren also spent time posing for photos with each kid, signing autographs and sharing stories about what life is like in the NBA. Meanwhile, the big smile never left Holmgren’s face as he soaked up every moment of this precious time with his new family in Oklahoma.
“I think this is where we’re the happiest,” said Holmgren’s mother, Sarah. “We just and especially love this holiday which is all about getting together with friends and family, enjoying a good meal and just enjoying each other, it’s a beautiful time of the year.”
Before the families loaded their cars to head home for the night, they were surprised with another hodgepodge. This time it was a selection of fun Thunder gear for each child to take home to remember the evening.
For each of the foster families, the afternoon was a lasting memory that will stay with them for the rest of the year. For Holmgren and his family, it was a tangible opportunity to embrace the same community that Chet embraced during his time in Oklahoma City. At the end of the evening there were smiles and full bellies for everyone present.
“I don’t think anyone is going home hungry tonight and that was the goal,” said Holmgren.