Anthony Grant, the University of Dayton men’s basketball coach, was in the serving line, helping dish up the turkey, dressing and mashed potatoes alongside Dayton mayor Nan Whaley.
Grant’s wife Chris was working, too.
So was Shauna Green, the UD women’s hoops coach, who joined many of the Flyers basketball players, women and men, who carried the Thanksgiving meals – along with smaller plates of sweet potato, pumpkin, cherry, apple and chocolate cream pie – to people’s tables for them.
Sinclair women’s basketball coach, Victoria Jones, and her players spent the afternoon getting some of the 8,000 diners at the downtown Dayton Convention Center extra deserts, coffee, sodas and sometimes entire meals.
And Jeff Price, the Sinclair men’s coach and his Tartan Pride basketball players helped clear off tables and set them up again for the wave after wave of people who came to Thursday’s Feast of Giving at the downtown Dayton Convention Center.
The was 49th year for the annual event and this time, along with all the traditional holiday fare, there was a large helping of local basketball talent at the three-hour gathering.
This wasn’t a show-up-for-the-cameras publicity stunt that some teams perfected in the past, the athletes and coaches this year worked and had fun and embraced the true meaning of community and Thanksgiving.
“It was good to talk to all the different people here today about their lives and what they’ve gone through,” said Tyler Powell, a Sinclair freshman guard from Cleveland. “It feels really good giving back to the people here today.”
And the athletes gave in a variety of ways.
Javell Redwood, Sinclair’s 6 foot-11 freshman from Jamaica, walked through the crowd with a tray filled with small ice cream containers – vanilla, chocolate and orange sherbet – that he handed out.
The Flyers big men – 6-foot-10 Kostas Antetokounmpo and 6-7 Josh Cunningham – carried people’s food for them. So did other teammates.
Meanwhile, as the Chris Bowman & Friends band played from the elevated stage, T.J. Mason, a Sinclair guard from Fremont, led several other Tartan Pride players – including 6-7 sophomore LiDonta Hicks-Gentry, Myalisa Beal, a freshman forward from Dunbar, and Kierre James, a freshman guard from Lima – in the Electric Slide line dance on the dance floor.
In a back room, where the kids had gathered and also gloves and caps were being handed out, Powell danced the Wobble alongside his newest admirers.
The annual affair, which is supported by numerous benefactors – including Dr. Steve Levitt and Lori Parsons of Dermatologists of Southwest Ohio, ABC 22 Fox 45 and several others – draws a mosaic of people from the community.
You saw on the dance floor as the athletes were joined by diners of all ages, as well as Dayton Police commander, Major Wendy H. Stiver, who smooth-stepped it in her uniform alongside a boogying Mrs. Claus, (Karen Kramer.) who later would make the rounds of tables with her Santa husband, Fred Kramer of Kramer’s Party Supply.
“Look out there, it’s great,” Victoria Jones said as she watched the crowd glide to the Marcia Griffiths’ song. “You’ve got black and white out there, old and young, just everybody. There’s a Chinese man, some of our athletes, even families. This is really beautiful.”
Sinclair’s Tyler Powell agreed: “I hope we do this again next year. This is what it’s about.”