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DALLAS – The pint-sized toddler twins weaved in and out of tables, blowing bubbles and building tall Jenga towers with Mavs Gaming players as they clutched their new gaming gear and free sack lunches at Little Mexico Village Community Center, a sprawling apartment complex tucked along the northern edge of downtown Dallas.
“A lot of these kids don’t get three meals a day or a chance to even play outside,” said *Nicole, the mother of the twins and one of the families that attended a recent Mavs Gaming service project at Little Mexico Village. “The children always anticipate when groups come to visit them. It means everything to them.”
Mavs.com is protecting the names, identities and faces of the families that live at the 102-unit housing project — owned and operated by the Dallas Housing Authority — which provides affordable housing to low-income families, some of them in protective custody.
“Even in the midst of despair and hardships in our lives,” Nicole said, “this place reminds us that there is hope. There are people that come to visit us and really care.”
At the start of the Mavs Gaming season, the team committed to serving underprivileged, impoverished and less-fortunate children, women and families in the greater Dallas community. Last Monday the Mavs partnered with CitySquare’s Summer Mobile Meal Program for a project that included serving lunch and engaging the children in various outdoor activities and games.
“We got to play with the kids, some of us gave out lunch to the kids and talked about their hobbies,” said Peter ‘PeteBeBallin’ Malin, a rookie center with Mavs GG, who sat between dozens of children on the grass for a picnic lunch. “We really just bonded and got a chance to know more about their life here. It was a really fun experience.”
According to CitySquare, an astounding 89% of Dallas ISD students qualify for free or reduced-price meals at school. After school and in the summer months, this leaves nine out of 10 students without a regular nutritious meal each day.
CitySquare’s Child Nutrition program provides free nutritious meals to children after school and during the summer. Meals are delivered to community partner sites, like Little Mexico Village, year-round.
Katie Edwards, Dallas Mavericks vice president of community relations and president of the Mavs Foundation, said CitySquare was a 2018-19 Mavs Foundation grant recipient. Last month, the foundation collaborated with CitySquare to open the new Fannie C. Harris Youth Center, providing a safe haven and technology resource center for at-risk youth. It is the 17th reading center launched by the Mavs Foundation in North Texas.
Edwards said Monday’s service project aims at improving the lives of children and youth in the Dallas Independent School District by providing them role models like the Mavs GG players. In addition, the Mavs worked with CitySquare to serve lunch, something key for the youth during the summer when hunger is more rampant when families are faced with transportation, economic and other barriers to access traditional food programs.
“I really enjoyed the day and just the vibe with the kids,” said LT Fairley, who is the head coach of Mavs Gaming. “I met some amazing kids who will grow up and be great for the community of Dallas.”
A Navy veteran, Fairley said his team is full of well-rounded, community-minded character individuals who are really committed to working with young people and less-fortunate folks in the community. He said being a part of the Mavs Gaming franchise is about developing diverse men who can use their gaming platform to make a difference through charitable endeavors throughout communities.
“Our players always look forward to getting out and serving the kids and the community,” he added. “It’s something that’s important to all of us.”
Mavs GG shooting guard Grant Barker, known as “Grant Monster” in the E-sports world, joked that his days working as a steakhouse server came into play a few weeks ago when Mavs GG served up lunch for the homeless at The Bridge, a Dallas homeless recovery center. He said it helped again with the children at Little Mexico Village because he was tasked with handing out milk cartons and sack lunches during mealtime.
“It was fun handing out drinks and everything,” Barker told Mavs.com. “We played hoops with the kids, Connect 4, Uno, just a bit of everything. It’s awesome just giving back a little bit.”
Small forward Justin ‘Sherm’ Sherman said service and community service projects days are always something his teammates anticipate.
“There’s a bigger picture behind just playing the game,” Sherman said. “Helping out is an amazing feeling that we all look forward to.”
The NBA 2K League is in Week 10 of its NBA season with three weeks remaining of the regular season. Mavs Gaming has already clinched a postseason berth and they’re still in contention for a regular season title.
At the start of the Mavs gaming season the team committed to service projects all summer long focusing on hunger and housing needs in the Dallas area.
As Monday’s event came to a close, Nicole stayed behind with her twins to help the Mavs community relations team stack chairs and collect toy pieces stretched across the tables. She told Mavs.com that she embraces any chance to allow her children to watch and interact with role models like the gamers.
“They are tangible role models and show service and love in action,” Nicole said. “We have a lot of kids here who battle a ton of hardships at home, so when groups come, it’s something that’s huge for all of us.
“They get to get outside and feel the sunshine and laugh and be a kid again. That alone is a gift to them. This event was really special and something the children will never forget.”
ABOUT CITYSQUARE: CitySquare fights the causes and effects of poverty through service, advocacy and friendship. Working together as a community for three decades, CitySquare feeds the hungry, heals the sick, houses the homeless and renews hope through 17 unique programs. For more information, visit www.CitySquare.org.
ABOUT MAVS GAMING: Mavs Gaming is the Dallas Mavericks affiliate team in the NBA 2K League. The NBA 2K League is a professional competitive gaming league co-founded by the NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. Bringing together the world’s best basketball gamers, this marks the first official Esports league operated by a U.S. professional sports league.