Brandon Ingram hosts fourth annual back-to-school event
Brandon Ingram shakes hands with a young fan at his fourth annual back-to-school bookbag giveaway at Martin C. Freeman Gymnasium on Saturday. Photo by Linda Whittington / Neuse News
Brandon Ingram's NBA team may have changed, but his heart remains true to Kinston.
The New Orleans Pelicans forward held his fourth annual back-to-school event at the Martin C. Freeman gymnasium Saturday, with hundreds in attendance. Ingram, the former standout Kinston High and Duke player, was the No. 2 draft pick of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2016, playing there for his first three seasons before being traded to New Orleans this year.
Since breaking into the NBA, Ingram has held the back-to-school event each year at Martin C. Freeman to show his appreciation to the community. This year, bookbags stuffed with school supplies were distributed to 1,000 children and Ingram said he was thankful for the opportunity to assist.
“It means a lot, not just for them excited to see me, but for them to be excited to be here and for me to have the opportunity to give back to the community that has given so much to me,” Ingram said. “I’ve been in these kids’ shoes where I’ve walked through this gym, walked the streets of Kinston, North Carolina and just having the opportunity to come here and receive bookbags — I don’t think I had this when I was growing up — so to do this and continue to do more things for the community, it’s a beautiful thing and I never think for a second about doing that.”
Lenoir County Sheriff Ronnie Ingram, Brandon’s uncle, said the community has been thankful for his nephew’s contributions to Kinston.
"Brandon hasn't forgotten where he's come from and he wanted to do his part for the place he grew up," Ingram said. "It's good to see him give back in this way."
Isaac Hickman Jr. was one of the volunteers at the event and said the focus wasn't strictly on school supplies for students — 100 pairs of shoes were also given away, along with materials for the classrooms.
"It wasn't just bookbags we were distributing," Hickman Jr. said. "We also had supplies for teachers, keeping them in consideration, and we had the shoes for some of the kids."
Deollie Waters, 14, said he was excited to see Ingram.
"I like the way he plays basketball and dunks on people," Waters said. "I also like how he's giving out shoes and bookbags for us, helping the community out."
Fendy Joseph, 11, said he appreciated Ingram's game and philanthropy.
"I like how he dunks, hits 3s and how he gives back to Kinston," Joseph said.
Donald Ingram, Brandon’s father, said the family has been blessed to assist in Kinston.
“We just believe in giving back to the community,” Ingram said. “We’re in a position where our finances and everything is in place, we saw the need long ago with me working at the gym, recreation department and seeing East Kinston, a lot of businesses leaving out. The kids are still in need, the parents are in need, the teachers are in need.
“We’re in a position to give back and build up the community center, as well as build up the community as far as a kick start, providing some shoes, apparel, supplies and helping out during the duration of the entire year — we’ll still give back in some capacity.”
Brandon Ingram said his upbringing in Kinston helped him become the man he is today. He said he has optimism for the future of the children.
“As I grew up, I saw the opportunity and the things that can get you to be something in life,” Ingram said. “I know it’s some positive things out here that can inspire a person and make them want to do great things in the community.”
Next year will mark the fifth annual back-to-school event and Ingram said he will have his ear to Kinston and provide what he can.
“(I’ll be reaching) out to my team (for) what they’re seeing in Kinston, what needs to be built and continue to give back to the kids,” Ingram said.