Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson explains why Utah holds a place in his heart as he passes out 200 meals
Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
WEST VALLEY CITY — LeBron Kamoto was trying to process what had just happened.
He walked into a school gymnasium and met Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson. He took a picture with him, too. Those kinds of things don’t often happen to kids in West Valley City.
He was then handed a sharpie and was told to go ask the Jazz star for an autograph.
No, that was too much, LeBron told his mother, Oliana. He felt Clarkson had already taken the time to take a picture, and he couldn’t ask for more. After some prodding, the shy kid went back up to one of his jazz heroes, and Clarkson quickly and happily signed a picture for him.
“That was crazy,” LeBron said, beaming. “I’m about to shake.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Clarkson and his family made their way to Valley Junior High to hand out 200 Thanksgiving dinners to local families. Each family made their way around the school’s gym to get everything they needed — stuffing, potatoes, mac and cheese, pumpkin pie, yams, etc. — from stations managed by Clarkson’s family members and friends.
When they got to the end, Clarkson was waiting for them with a turkey and a bright smile.
For LeBron Kamoto, the experience was a dream. For Oliana, it was a blessing.
“It’s gonna do a lot,” she said. “There’s a lot of people that have been in hard times, and this has been awesome.”
That’s exactly why Clarkson put on the event.
“I know today is something they will remember,” Clarkson said. “Being able to eat Thanksgiving food, spending time with us, whatever it is. I know it means a lot; it means a lot to us. That’s why we do it. We just keep trying and sharing joy and love.”
Clarkson got an assist from a teammate, too. Jarred Vanderbilt wasn’t originally scheduled to come to Valley Junior High, but when he found out what was going on, he decided to swing by.
“I’m big on giving back,” he said. “Anytime I can be a part of something like this and just help out and be present, (I want to do it)….Having them have a smile on their face puts a smile on my face.”
For Vanderbilt, Tuesday hit a little close to home, too. He grew up in a low-income home in a low-income part of Houston. He knows how hard things can be during the holidays.
“I feel like everyone deserves to have a good Thanksgiving meal, regardless of the circumstances that you’re in,” he said. Part of (the responsibility) of being in the position that we’re in is to do our part.
Along with aiding in Clarkson’s event, Vanderbilt will also provide Thanksgiving meals for five families at the Neighborhood House in Salt Lake City. Elsewhere, Jazz point guard Collin Sexton will serve a meal provided by Catholic Community Services to approximately 200 people at the Women’s Resource Center.
“It warms everybody’s heart,” Clarkson said. “As long as we are all here, it’s a community.”
That community is one Clarkson is happy to be a part of. As all the offseason moves happened around him, Clarkson was happy to remain in Utah — even when the team wasn’t expected to be as competitive as they’ve proven to be.
“The way they’ve embraced me since I got here,” he said. They’ve shown love since I’ve been here. Whatever other people say about it—opposing teams and opposing fans—it’s a different way.
“For us, it’s a lot of people coming together. Of course, there are bad spots or whatever, but all in all, I think, it’s been embracive. With everything that’s gone on over the last few years, people have come together, and it’s been a great experience. I love it here, and it’ll always have a place in my heart.”
After Tuesday, a couple hundred families will have a special place in their hearts for him, as well.
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