September 18, 2013

Gomes Drops By Horace Mann Elementary

When Thunder forward Ryan Gomes strode into the room at Horace Mann Elementary, the second grade class was beyond excited to see him. From the moment he sat down in front of the students, Gomes had them on the edge of their seats.

Gomes, an eight-year NBA veteran but summer newcomer to Oklahoma City took part in the Thunder’s Reading Timeout program, where he sat in front of 40 second graders to read the book “J is For Jumpshot: A Basketball Alphabet”, by Michael Ulmer. In between reading sections of the books, Gomes made sure to explain what he just read in terms the kids could understand, then once the book was finished the Thunder forward answered questions from the bubbling classroom of students.

“I get a real kick out of doing this, coming to the schools and reading to these kids,” Gomes said. “Their excitement, their questions, their enthusiasm is great. Today we had a great group of kids who listened, but when I was done, they had a lot of questions for me, which is good.”

Reading Timeout events are a part of the Thunder’s Read to Achieve program, sponsored by American Fidelity Assurance Company, who was represented on Wednesday by National Accounts Representative Roy Bishop. After the question-and-answer session, the duo helped lead the second grade class in its reading pledge and took a group photo before Gomes handed out Thunder bookmarks and wristbands to each child.

Each aspect of the event helps create an environment of excitement about reading, which is why Bishop and Gomes were so pleased with the afternoon.

“The Reading Timeouts are special,” Bishop said. “They can relate to the kids on a level that they have had before. They’ve had their mom and dad maybe read to them, and here they have an NBA basketball player in Ryan coming out, sitting down and sharing with them all kinds of life lessons.”

“This is very influential with the NBA Cares program,” Gomes explained. “We try to teach them that reading is fundamental and that they can learn a lot by reading books.”

The key to making events like the Reading Timeout a success is the manner in which the player operates throughout the session. Gomes, the father of a daughter in kindergarten himself, knew exactly what to say and how to say it in order to get the kids engaged in the story as he read, but also stay quiet enough for all to enjoy each word.

The 31-year old forward bantered back-and-forth with the children when they chimed in, and had the patience to delve into some life lessons when they came to mind. His fatherly experience made sure the kids hung on his every word, and his interest in each student was impressive to the faculty, including Horace Mann’s principal, Dr. Judy Jones.

“We were absolutely delighted to have him here,” Dr. Jones said. “I thought he was very animated and then he was very real with the kids. He could relate to them. I think despite them thinking he was really old at 31, I think the reality is that they related to him very positively.”

The second graders in attendance are just two years older than Gomes’ own daughter, so he could relate. What was fascinating, however, is that these second graders and intense Thunder fans were only two years old when the Thunder arrived in Oklahoma City in 2008. Despite still being a young franchise, in just a few short years the Thunder will be older as an organization than some of its fans.

As a result, events like Wednesday’s at Horace Mann are a great opportunity to give back to the Oklahoma City community and reach the future generation of leaders, scholars and athletes. With the lessons he gives to his own daughter in the back of his mind, Gomes followed through at Horace Mann, attempting to touch the lives of those who will shape Oklahoma’s future. By putting education first, Gomes and the Thunder hope to inspire young minds to reach their full potential.

“Our youth needs to know the importance of keeping a focus on the books,” Gomes said. “That’s what I was taught when I was younger. That’s what I try to teach and instill in these kids when I go speak to them.”

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By NICK GALLO | Thunder Basketball Writer
September 18th, 2013

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