Cade Cunningham, Pistons team up to assist 5 Detroit schools with winter gear giveaway

Detroit News

Detroit — All eyes fixated on Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey as they entered the gymnasium of Gompers Elementary-Middle School, located on Detroit’s west side, on Wednesday afternoon.

The two Pistons stars, along with coach Dwane Casey and several members of the franchise, were in attendance for the team’s partnership with Kroger for a Season of Giving initiative.

The entire Pistons team and basketball operations staff was split into five groups on Wednesday to conduct a winter gear giveaway for five Detroit schools: Gompers Elementary, Amelia Earhart Elementary-Middle School, Trix Academy, Detroit Leadership Academy, and Detroit Leadership Academy High School.

More than 2,800 students from the five schools received an opportunity to receive free coats, hats and gloves to combat the forthcoming winter weather. They also had a rare opportunity to see their favorite basketball players in a more intimate setting. Cunningham and Bey were joined by Pistons guard Alec Burks and two-way forward Braxton Key.

As the group walked around Gompers, they were surrounded by a wave of kids who wanted their autographs and pictures taken. The children’s excitement was apparent through their constant screams of joy as Cunningham and Bey took turns greeting them with warm smiles and fist bumps.

“I think that’s one of my favorite parts — is being able to go see all the kids and be around them and feel their energy,” Cunningham said. “It’s a blessing for them to look up to me the way that they do. It’s still crazy for me sometimes. Just to give back and be able to be around them and spend some time with them, it’s just as special for me as it is for them.”

Cunningham’s generous donations totaled $70,000, with $10,000 each split across the five Metro Detroit schools. The other $20,000 will be donated to two schools in his hometown of Arlington, Texas. The funding will establish “Cade’s Care Closets,” which will provide toiletries, hygiene products and non-perishable snacks for students to access.

Bey donated a total of more than $5,000 in gift cards that will be divided between staff members at each of the five Metro Detroit schools.

Casey said it’s “very important” for the team to be visible in the community during the holiday season.

“A lot of our players were just in this situation — in this school setting — a few years ago with their (young) age,” Casey said. “You can imagine how important it would be to see an NFL player, Major League Baseball player or an NBA player. I know that’s what Tom Gores, our owner, really emphasizes with all of us. I do it from my heart. Cade does it from his heart, but it starts at the top.

“It’s good for our players too, to be able to go back and give back and be a part of the community and share themselves with young kids an show them an example.”

More: New shoes connect Pistons center Isaiah Stewart, WNBA star Breanna Stewart

The Pistons are struggling on the court with a league-worst 5-18 record, but Casey said the change in pace helps to break up some of the monotony of the season.

“It’s huge. Especially today after getting spanked by (30 points). Today was a godsend as far as the timing of it. To be able to come out and see kids and put a smile on their face. We had a tough film session and walkthrough, but this kind of changes the spirit and it should.”

Mavericks at Pistons

▶ Tipoff: 7 p.m. Thursday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

▶ TV/radio: TNT/97.1 FM

▶ Outlook: The Pistons will look to snap a three-game losing streak on Thursday against the Dallas Mavericks. Luka Doncic, who leads the league in scoring with 33.5 points per game, is the orchestrator of Dallas’ offense. He is fourth in the NBA in assists (8.6) and steals (1.8). The Pistons gave up 16 3-pointers against the New York Knicks on Tuesday, so they’ll need to pay attention to Mavericks guard Josh Green, who’s second in the NBA in 3-point percentage. The third-year guard is connecting on 50% of his 3-point attempts.

mcurtis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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