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Slide Show: Santa Cruz Warriors Hang Out at Grind Out Hunger Skate Shop

Basketball players tried their hands at ping pong, signed autographs and hung out with skate kids Wednesday.

Warrior Kiwi Gardner autographs a basketball for a fan at Grind Out Hunger headquarters
Warrior Kiwi Gardner autographs a basketball for a fan at Grind Out Hunger headquarters
One thing you have to say about the Santa Cruz Warriors players: they are out around the town doing community service. 

Wednesday they raised food donations at Grind Out Hunger headquarters on 41st Avenue -- that's the first nonprofit skateboard shop and indoor park in the country. All profits go to feeding hungry kids.

Earlier in the week, they were in schools playing basketball with kids to inspire them to read more. 

And next Tuesday, they are doing Grind Out Hunger night, wearing special black jerseys for the game and auctioning them off afterwards. They will sign the jerseys right after the game with each winner. 

Wednesday afternoon kids stared wide-eyed at the players, but Kiwi Gardner and Daniel Nwaelele didn't let them just stare -- they got them moving. Gardner walked in, hugged everyone and in minutes was playing ping pong with 9-year-old Andrew Boose. They played seriously, both showing the kind of competitive edge of people who hate to lose anything.

Nwaelele, 6-feet 4 inches, was signing shirts on the backs of kids who barely came up to his knee. It looked like one of those Coke commercials, with the kids smiles almost as wide as a basketball. 

No, the basketball players didn't get on skateboards, but they watched 3-year-old Vinny Sparito drop down from the height of the ramp and sail around. Some of the kids wore yellow Warriors capes, like underage superheroes.

They also gave a jersey signed by the whole team to Kiera Brown, 11, who has started an anti-bullying group called Campaign for Kindness and who does pageants with National American Miss, an organization that focuses on actions, not beauty.

These pictures are way better than any words...
Melissa Boose January 16, 2014 at 12:35 AM
Love the photos & article. Andrew had so much fun with Kiwi who is a true class act!
Pauline Brown January 16, 2014 at 09:16 AM
I agree , everyone one there was a class act, kiera's wish came true although a surprise. It was an experience she nor I will forget. And now we are on our way to Stanford for her surgery, but she goin happy. Danny you rock!!

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