Ron Hoskins

Holiday Cheer on Full Display at Shop with The Pacers

by Greg Rappaport Writer

On Sunday evening at the Circle Centre Mall, the Pacers took part in the annual "Shop with The Pacers" event, hosting families from Bethany Christian Services for dinner and a holiday shopping spree.

Each child was given a $200 Simon Malls gift card, and with the help of Cory Joseph, Lance Stephenson, and Victor Oladipo, the kids had the perfect shopping companions to help them find the gifts they needed.

"These things are always fun," said Joseph, who had just finished helping his group pick out shoes from Finish Line, which offered a special discount. "The kids are always running around all kid-in-a-candy-store, smiling, having a blast, picking up whatever they can find, we're just happy to make them happy."

The evening started with a dinner provided by Papa John's and desserts supplied by Kroger, which also gave the families in attendance a $100 gift card to help out with holiday food shopping.

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After the players were introduced, the groups split up and took over the mall, stopping for toys, clothes, electronics, shoes, and more. In addition to having the players as shopping companions, the Pacemates, WNBA legend Tamika Catchings, and a numbers of volunteers from the Pacers and Fever were also on hand to assist.

Oladipo, who was paired with a group of sisters, made a first stop at Charlotte Russe for clothes, helping the young women find the perfect attire. One might think Oladipo wouldn't be the best person to ask for such a task, but the Pacers' leading scorer has an eye for fashion and grew up with sisters, making him a natural fit with the group.

"It was a lot easier, a lot easier when you've had the experiences I've had," Oladipo said. "So it was pretty cool to come out here and shop with them, it kind of reminded me of my past."

Another member of the Pacers who looked natural in his environment was Stephenson, the team's resident shoe expert who was able to assist his group in finding the ideal pair of kicks.

"Lance is one of the best guys probably in this league with the shoes," said Joseph of his teammate. "He's always wearing a different shoe every game, so if anybody has anything to know about any shoe, you just go to Lance."

After the groups finished their rounds, they returned to where it all started and made sure to get some pictures with their new favorite Pacers players.

For the Pacers' Director of Community Relations Kelli Towles, the annual event, which is part of the NBA Cares "Season of Giving," is always a favorite to watch as the Pacers players and the kids form a bond after a couple of hours shopping and jumping store-to-store.

"They become kids themselves," Towles said of the players. "They enjoy shopping with the kids and helping them pick out shoes or toys or stuffed bears, or whatever it might be. So it's really cool to see a different side of our players than you might see on the court."