Watch: Chet Holmgren Serves Up Thanksgiving Feast for Foster Families
Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren may be sidelined with injury for the season, but that didn’t stop him or his family from jumping into action during the holidays.
Thanksgiving has always been a big deal for the Holmgrens. In Minneapolis, they typically welcomed more than 100 guests over the span of two days to enjoy the holiday meal. It has been a treasured annual time of gathering with friends and loved ones over a delicious dinner to give thanks.
Now, as a new member of the OKC community, Holmgren couldn’t wait to bring the same heartfelt tradition to his new city. On Tuesday evening, the rookie hosted foster families from Citizens Caring for Children for a Thunder Thanksgiving feast as part of the 15th Holiday Assist.
“Every year, I’ve had a great Thanksgiving dinner with my family. It’s always been a great time,” said Holmgren. “I’m in my new city now. This is my new Oklahoma City family. So I thought I’d try to do the same for some people this year.”
Eight foster families from Citizens Caring for Children – an organization that serves children living in foster care in central Oklahoma and the surrounding counties – made their way to the Thunder business office for the dinner festivities.
Holmgren and his family approached the evening with the same excitement and anticipation as they would for their annual Minneapolis feasts with everyone contributing to the preparations. In fact, Holmgren’s sisters were responsible for the intricate centerpieces that decorated each table as well as the array of delectable pies 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 children with hugs, high fives and a few mischievous antics. At each table, jars of colored pencils sat next to coloring books – an idea of Chet’s to keep the kids entertained before dinner started.
When Holmgren entered the room to greet the families before dinner, a hush fell over the group as they soaked up the 7-footers’ presence. Chet gave a few brief remarks – recognizing that long speeches before a delicious meal is not a recipe for a captive audience. Before dispersing everyone for dinner, Holmgren had just one rule: no one is allowed to leave hungry.
The rule seemed simple enough, but for a room full of foster kids and families it was a rare and meaningful invitation to eat and enjoy as much as their hearts desire.
“Children living in foster care face a lot of uncertainty,” said Lynn Roller, Executive Director of Citizens Caring for Children. “So for them to come to an event like this and be surrounded by someone like Chet, the Thunder staff and other people who are showing them that they matter, that people care about them and want them to have fun and be able to be a kid just like any other kid.”
With free rein and a fully stocked Thanksgiving buffet in front of them, the children walked away from the line with overflowing dinner plates and equally large servings of desserts. Piles of chocolate cake and pie topped with mounds of whipped cream were delicately balanced by little hands as they walked back to their table.
After grabbing a plate of his own, Holmgren sat down at a table with five kids of various ages. They laughed and smiled through their forks while discussing basketball and the NBA.
On his second helping, Chet moved to a table across the room. This time the conversation centered around Oklahoma and learning more about foster families – all while bonding over the shared appreciation for good food.
“It was great to meet all the families here and a lot of the kids,” said Holmgren. “They have plenty of questions to ask about basketball and sports. I think it was great to get to meet them and get to meet some of the people from the new city that I’ll be in for a while.”
The 19-year-old dished out more than just plates full of food. Holmgren also spent time posing for photos with each child, signing autographs and sharing stories of what life is like in the NBA. All the while, the wide smile never faded from Holmgren’s face as he soaked up every moment of this precious time with his new Oklahoma family.
“This is I think where we are happiest,” said Holmgren’s mother, Sarah. “We just love it and particularly this holiday where it’s about getting together with friends and family, and enjoying a good meal and just enjoying each other, it’s a lovely time of the year.”
Before the families loaded their cars to head home for the night, they were surprised with yet another smorgasbord. This time, it was a spread of fun Thunder gear for each child to take home to remember the evening.
For each of the foster families, the afternoon created a lasting memory that will stick with them throughout the rest of the year. For Holmgren and his family, it was a tangible opportunity to embrace the same community that has wrapped its arms around Chet during his time in Oklahoma City. By the end of the night was all smiles and full bellies for everyone in attendance.
“I don’t think anybody’s going home hungry tonight and that was the goal,” said Holmgren.