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Jordan Clarkson hands out 200 Thanksgiving meals ‘ Utah

Estimated reading time: 3-4 minutes

WEST VALLEY CITY — LeBron Kamoto was trying to process what had just happened.

He went to a school gym and met Utah jazz guard Jordan Clarkson. He also took a picture with him. Things like that don’t happen often to kids in West Valley City.

He was then handed a marker and asked to ask the jazz star for an autograph.

No, that was too much, LeBron told his mother, Oliana. He felt Clarkson had already taken the time to take a picture and he couldn’t ask for more. After some prodding, the shy boy went back to one of his jazz heroes, and Clarkson quickly and happily signed a picture for him.

“That was crazy,” LeBron said, beaming. “I’m about to tremble.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Clarkson and his family made their way to Valley JUnion High to distribute 200 Thanksgiving dinners to local families. Each family made their way through the school’s gymnasium to get whatever they needed — stuffing, potatoes, mac and cheese, pumpkin pie, yams, etc. — from stations manned by Clarkson’s family members and friends.

When they got to the end, Clarkson was waiting for them with a turkey and a beaming smile.

For LeBron Kamoto, the experience was a dream. It was a blessing for Oliana.

“It will do a lot,” she said. “There’s a lot of people who’ve been through tough times, and that’s been great.”

This is exactly why Clarkson hosted the event.

“I know they will remember today,” Clarkson said. “Being able to eat Thanksgiving food, spend time with us, whatever it is. I know it means a lot; it means a lot to us. That’s why we do it. We just keep trying to share joy and love.”

Clarkson also got an assist from a teammate. Jarred Vanderbilt wasn’t originally supposed to come to Valley Junior High, but when he found out what was going on, he decided to stop by.

“I’m very passionate about giving back,” he said. “Anytime I can be a part of something like that and just help and be present (I want to do it). … When they have a smile on their face, it puts a smile on my face.”

Tuesday was a little closer to home for Vanderbilt, too. He grew up in a low-income home in a low-income part of Houston. He knows how hard it can be during the holidays.

“I feel like everyone deserves a good Thanksgiving meal, regardless of the circumstances you’re in,” he said. “Part of (the responsibility) of being in the position we’re in is doing our part to make it happen.”

In addition to supporting Clarkson’s event, Vanderbilt will also provide Thanksgiving meals for five families at the Salt Lake City Neighborhood House. Elsewhere, Jazz Point Guard Collin Sexton will serve a meal provided by Catholic Community Services to about 200 people at the Women’s Resource Center.

“It warms everyone’s heart,” Clarkson said. “As long as we’re all here, it’s a community.”

Clarkson is excited to be part of this community. With all of the offseason moves happening around him, Clarkson was happy to stay in Utah — even if the team wasn’t expected to be as competitive as it has proven to be.

Why?

“The way they’ve hugged me since I got here,” he said. “You’ve shown love since I’ve been here. Whatever other people say about it – opposing teams and opposing fans – it’s very different.

“A lot of people come together for us. Of course there are bad spots or whatever, but overall I think it was comprehensive. Everything that has happened over the last few years has brought people together and it has been a great experience. I love it here and it will always have a place in my heart.”

After Tuesday, a few hundred families will also hold a special place in their hearts for him.

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Ryan Miller has covered the Utah Jazz for KSL.com since 2018.

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