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The Memphis Grizzlies hosted the Annual Holiday Toy Drive on Sunday, a wonderful event where the franchise reinforces its admirable involvement with the community once again. The Toy Drive benefited Le Bonheur’s Children Hospital and provided a great opportunity for people all around the city to not only give back but to also meet their favorite Grizzlies players and coaches.

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Fans get autographs from Jamaal Franklin, Mike Conley, and Head Coach Dave Joerger

As a reward for bringing an unwrapped gift to donate to Toys for Tots, the fans were given a chance to get as many autographs as their hearts desired. The turn out was tremendous and the event was an overwhelming success. Before the Grizzlies even arrived, long lines were already forming and the fans were buzzing with anticipation. Posters of players were handed out for free, and basketballs were offered for people standing in line. The Claw Crew was also roaming through the hallways, entertaining the younger kids as everyone patiently waited for the Grizzlies. When elevator doors opened and the first group of players stepped out, the excitement bubbled over into a frenzy.

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Fans eagerly waited for Grizzlies Player Marc Gasol to arrive

One of the best parts of events like this is seeing the diversity of people that come out to support the Grizzlies and Toys for Tots. Fans of all ages, races and genders came to see the team and donate toys. It really showed how the Memphis Grizzlies franchise has touched the lives of so many in the community.

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Mike Miller autographs painting by 17 year old Hannah Wisdom by writing “Let it fly” (left arm) and “I love Hannah” (right arm)

Another great thing about the Toy Drive was it allowed for fans to see Marc Gasol again. You could definitely tell how badly everyone has missed Big Spain when you saw the amount of people in line for his autograph. A lot of the anxiety about this season has stemmed from Gasol’s injury, and once people were able to see him sporting his big smile, it soothed some of the uneasiness.

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Marc Gasol signs an autograph for a fan.

As always, the players and coaches were  very personable, patient, and genuinely grateful for the fans who came out to take part in the Toy Drive. It may sound trite, but you could  feel the “christmas spirit” in the air with the players smiling, laughing, and everyone truly enjoying themself.

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John Leuer (left) and Jerryd Bayless (right) smile and laugh while they sign autographs at the Annual Toy Drive

When the autograph lines were beginning to be closed down, the event continued in other ways. Fans who stayed a little while longer were able to catch Quincy Pondexter and Nick Calathes roaming about near the Fedex Forum’s entrance. Calathes stopped to talk with some fans and gladly took pictures with them. Pondexter also took pictures with those who asked and answered questions fans may have had for him.

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Quincy Pondexter (left) took time to take some pictures with fans. The boot on his left foot was an unfortunate sign of things to come, as the following day he learned that he would miss the rest of the season.

Overall, the Grizzlies Annual Holiday Toy Drive was a great success. It brought everyone such joy to see #GrizzNation give back and the players and coaches were so thankful. After going to this event, it is easy to see why the Memphis Grizzlies were voted the #1 Franchise in all sports by ESPN Magazine. Having the community and team come together like it did was a wonderful sight to see and really shows what a special organization we have here in Memphis.

Antonia Bufalino

 

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