Isaiah Thomas may be known for his skills on the basketball court as a point guard for the Sacramento Kings — but he has a heart for children in need in his hometown of Tacoma, Washington, where he distributed books at an elementary school in partnership with World Vision and First Book.
The 5-foot-9-inch point guard for the Sacramento Kings melted the hearts of students during a late May visit to Boze Elementary School in his hometown of Tacoma, Washington.
Thomas handed out free hardback books in a distribution organized by World Vision and Metro Parks Tacoma in partnership with First Book, a nonprofit that provides new books to schools and other organizations serving low-income children.
After answering questions from third-graders gathered in the school library about life in the NBA, a boy in the back row raised his hand.
“Why did you choose to come here?” 9-year-old Connar asked the Kings’ rising star, fresh off his career-best season in points and assists.
“Because you’re special,” Thomas replied.
That struck an emotional chord in a school where 95 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch — and where some kids are homeless.
“Thank you,” the children responded, almost in unison.
World Vision staff members delivered about 500 books to Boze for preschoolers through fifth-graders, some of whom have no books at home, teachers said.
The books passed out by Thomas — a variety of Disney titles ranging from Snow White to The Lion King — were seen as a tangible expression of his feelings toward students.
“He was taking care of my school,” said Heaven, 8, after hearing Thomas speak. Added her 9-year-old classmate, Amanda: “It made me feel special.”
In addition to deep poverty, Boze Elementary School has high numbers of students who speak English as a second language, Principal Arron Wilkins said. World Vision’s Teacher Resource Center provides free school supplies to Boze educators, along with supply-filled backpacks for students.
“First Book and World Vision are awesome partners,” Wilkins said.
Because many young boys at his school dream of playing professional sports, he was pleased to hear an NBA player emphasize academics.
“Isaiah is not only an athlete,” Wilkins said. “He’s pushing the kind of currency we want to push, which is literacy.”
Thomas also offers summer youth basketball camps in Tacoma and works with World Vision to give toys and basketballs to local children at Christmas.
He said the visit to Boze, which included signing autographs and posing for photos with students, made him think of his childhood in Tacoma.
“Being in their position before, when someone you look up to takes an interest in you — that goes a long way,” Thomas said. “I always wanted to give back to the city that made me…I’ll do anything to put a smile on people’s faces. That’s what it’s all about.”