Riding bikes, throwing frisbees, running around and laughing so loud that it rang through the aisle of Sport Chalet at Tempe Marketplace Tuesday night. It wasn’t because a large group of kids from the Guadalupe branch of the Valley Boys and Girls Clubs were in the store. No, it was just what Suns center Marcin Gortat and Suns alumni Mark West, Eddie Johnson and Alvan Adams were doing to have fun during Suns’ “Shop with a Jock” event.
The event, which gave 30 kids a $100 shopping spree at Sport Chalet to buy anything they wanted, was a chance for the Suns’ organization to spread some holiday joy. It’s something that Gortat appreciates about the franchise that employs him.
Gallery: All For Giving: Shop with a Jock
“It was a great experience,” the center said. “It was fun to be here and hang out with these kids. Not every kid is fortunate enough to be an NBA player. We players feel the responsibility to go give back to the community. The Phoenix Suns organization has been doing this for years. I’m just happy I was selected to do a little shopping with the Boys and Girls Club. Hopefully we’re going to do it next year.”
West, the former center and current VP of player programs, also truly appreciates what the organization that he’s been a part of for most of his adult life does for the Valley.
“It means the world,” he said with a smile. “I always like to say that if my kids were in need that someone would reach out to them and help them out. The fact that the Suns are able to do it and willing to do it means everything to me to work for an organization like that.
“It’s been a part of what they’ve been about ever since I played way back when. I’m very proud to be a part of this organization and the things they do for this community.”
It wasn’t all business at the event though. Gortat also got a chance to show off his inner child as he hopped on a woman’s bike, put on a helmet — as he said “safety first kids” — and raced one of the Boys and Girls Club members around the store. Just don’t tell the Polish Machine that his taste in two-wheeled transportation, the yellow bike with bright pink flowers around the wheels, was somewhat girly.
“That wasn’t a women’s bike,” he said with a sense of sarcasm buried among his Polish accent. “It was a new look for the man. It was fun. I hope it comes in black, but I’ll probably have to change rims. Those rims aren’t going to get it done.”
Although Gortat’s antics, along with those of the Suns Gorilla, were entertaining, the best part of the evening had to be the look on the kids faces. All 30 of them lit up brighter than the US Airways Center on a game night as they ran through the store selecting their numerous gifts. It was a reminder of the power and responsibility an organization like the Suns has to the community they call home. A responsibility they take serious as their “All For Giving” campaign taking place this month shows.
Just because they take it serious though doesn’t mean they aren’t having fun. Just ask Gortat, West and the kids that turned a Sport Chalet into a winter wonderland for an hour one Tuesday evening.