Locals who showed up to Bright Beginnings in Southeast Washington last week didn't need to trot all the way up the hill and into the heated tent to see Wizards All-Star John Wall. With icy rain pouring down, Wall stood on the back of a box truck, handing out turkeys to those in need, just days before Thanksgiving.
Wall has long favored charitable causes that hit close to home for him. That includes a backpack and school supplies giveaway in the summer. He himself was once a young kid who showed up to school unprepared.
The holidays used to be a difficult time for Wall, who grew up in poverty in Raleigh, NC. He knows how much it means to simply have a Thanksgiving meal with family and friends.
That connection is why he shows up every year to distribute turkeys, hoping to make the holiday season a little easier on those who need some help.
"The holidays mean more," Wall said. "Thanksgiving, Christmas, they mean more because it's the time where kids are like 'why I ain't get nothing, why don't I have anything under the tree?'
"I know how I was brought up and where I came from. My mom had to work multiple jobs to try to provide for me and my sisters and brothers. It can be a tough time and I'm in the position where I have the opportunity to give back but also be there and be involved."
Wall has worked with Bright Beginnings for years now. The program helps families with young children who are homeless, in shelters or transitional housing.
Wall has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the initiative and lends his time to events like the turkey giveaway. But according to Bright Beginnings executive director Dr. Marla Dean, Wall's involvement doesn't stop there.
"It is always a great day when John stops by," she said. "He's family to us. He comes in, he stops by to check on us. He checks on families. Today is very important because this is a tough season for people who are less fortunate."
Dean said Wall and others gave out 500 turkeys that afternoon. After handing out food, Wall took pictures and signed autographs with children.
This is an interesting time for Wall. His Wizards are struggling and last week tensions boiled over in a now-infamous practice.
Wall stood and surveyed the room at the turkey giveaway, recognizing the cause he was supporting as much bigger than the game of basketball.
"Whatever ups and downs you go through throughout a season is the course of life. But these types of events around the holidays, that's what cheers you up. They're always going through probably more than we are going through," he said.
"When I have an opportunity to put a smile on their face or uplift them through their problems and take that burden off their back, why not do it?"
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