A few weeks ago, the Lady Saints of Santa Fe South High School got an unexpected treat – while they were assembling for an after-school practice at Santa Fe South Elementary, the Rolling Thunder Book Bus was finishing up a visit, and the ladies had a chance to meet Thunder forward Lazar Hayward.
At the time, the girls probably didn’t think much could top that thrill. But on Tuesday night, the Thunder may have turned their thrill-meter to 11.
Santa Fe South, located in south OKC, has created a strong tradition of community involvement. When the Thunder last year issued a challenge to Oklahoma high school basketball teams to get more involved in their communities, the Lady Saints – led by coach Danny Boyd – stepped up immediately.
The girls team won the High School Basketball Community Challenge; their team and the varsity boys from Wilson High School in Wilson, Okla., won a Thunder-ized home game experience for their outstanding community service efforts.
While they were packing boxes at the Regional Food Bank and signing in runners for the Redbud Classic, these young ladies probably didn’t imagine what those efforts would bring.
Anyone who walked in to the Santa Fe Middle School gym last night to see the Lady Saints take on ASTEC High could have closed their eyes and thought they were at a Thunder game. Game-night tunes were blasting, thunder sticks were clapping, cheers were rising. Even the P.A. announcements, voiced by the Thunder’s own Jim Miller, rounded out the sounds with near-familiar phrases (“Whose ball is it? Saints ball!”).
And if you opened your eyes, you would have seen the excitement and intensity of all the game elements in the Chesapeake Energy Arena, compacted into a 300-seat gymnasium.
The SFS players took the court with a smoke machine pumping as, one by one, the starters were introduced. Rumble banged on his signature drum to start the game, leading the fans into a frenzy of claps. Storm Chasers bounced around – and flew above – the court, keeping the energy at a peak and performing high-flying dunks at halftime. Thunder Girls cheered from the sidelines and kicked out a dance routine during a break. DJ Boom led the soundtrack, and Thunder Drummers laid down some beats.
Of the many rewards and benefits of community service, this is definitely a new one.
And perhaps that’s just the point. The Thunder organization leads many efforts to use the excitement that surrounds our team as a means of promoting a sense of community. Since 2008, the team has directly partnered with more than 500 nonprofit organizations to promote things like literacy, fitness and community service. We even walk the walk by sending players, staff and coaches into the community to directly impact the lives of others.
To foster the next generation of service-minded Oklahomans and to fortify the connection between basketball and community, the Thunder is continuing its High School Basketball Community Challenge this year. Teams from anywhere in the state are invited to help us in those efforts and make a difference locally.
Who knows, they might even get to experience our team “bringing the Thunder” to their hometown.
For more details on the High School Basketball Community Challenge, including entry forms and deadlines, please CLICK HERE.
- Karina Henderson