For the second year in a row, Jarrett Allen worked with students from Open Doors Academy to share love and give back to the young scholars.
While Thanksgiving is associated with being grateful, celebrating and eating until you’re full with those who matter most until you find room for seconds (or thirds), it also kicks off one of the most important times of the year. The Season of Giving starts to get rolling where those who can give to those who need it most. Whether it’s something as simple as buying a cup of coffee for a random stranger or giving the gift someone has always wanted or, in Cleveland Cavaliers big man Jarrett Allen’s case, using his platform, his passion and his means to give back to the fans that support him every night he takes the hardwood.
For the second year in a row, Allen was able to host his annual Meals + Math initiative in person since joining the Cavaliers several seasons ago. The objective of Meals + Math, which began when Allen was a rookie with the Brooklyn Nets, is to teach children the importance of budgeting when grocery shopping, adding up the cost of their groceries with their calculator as they go. The goal is to keep everything within the preset limit, giving the young students an interesting challenge as they shop. It’s also a perfect blend of something Allen is passionate about: mathematics, education and, most of all, supporting children interested in pursuing a path within the STEM field.
Math + Meals is something something Allen looks forward to every single year, but, unlike last year, it wasn’t at your nearby Giant Eagle. Instead, due to the Cavaliers’ schedule Allen hosted 25 Euclid School District students from Open Doors Academy at Cleveland’s 108-100 victory over the Detroit Pistons late last week along with their families. At Open Doors Academy, students participate in high-quality, out-of-school time programs that individually meet the needs of scholars by partnering with families and schools to advance educational equity in the greater Cleveland community.
“It’s always special,” Allen told Right Down Euclid. “I couldn’t do as grand as I wanted to like last year, you know, bringing them to the store and actually have them shop. But I hope the little things I can do go a long way. It was good just to get them here, give them some goodie bags and help them with Thanksgiving shopping; hopefully, I helped make their week with it.”
This was the second year in a row that Allen had partnered with Open Doors Academy, which as Open Doors Academy CEO Dorothy Moulthrop shared Right Down Euclid, it was a perfect match, especially once Open Doors Academy learned how much Allen loved math. It hit a whole other level when Moulthrop and Open Doors Academy learned how passionate Allen is about giving back to the community.
“One of the things that struck me was that you could tell that this meant a lot to him,” said Moulthrop. “The service is part of who Jarrett is; you could tell how much it means to him whenever he’s been around the kids. It’s also so clear how much he loves math, too. Jarrett really wants to share that love and joy with young scholars, and you don’t see that very often. There is a connection between love and learning for him, which made the collaboration and connection between us even more special.”
Despite the Meals + Math celebration at a Cavaliers game instead of the grocery store, Allen gave the kids homework to maintain that connection to learning. It still stuck to the core ethos of Meals + Math; it focused on budgeting for a Thanksgiving meal. It even had a question that stumped Allen when he met with the students postgame to discuss the assignment. Moulthrop shared with Right Down Euclid that when the students, who were a little nervous to meet Allen, saw the Cavaliers’ big man come out dressed in plain street clothes and open up by asking the kids about their favorite things to cook before talking about homework, a lasting connection was made between Allen and the Euclid students.
“I had some students approach me and say, ‘Doctor Dot, his drip is so normal!’,” said Moulthrop. “It was a mix of Jarrett’s humility and ability to connect with the kids instantly that made the moment so special. It was clear they were able to lower their guard and feel comfortable around him. It went from them talking with a celebrity athlete to just a regular person like all of us.”
Once Allen wrapped up going over the homework he had assigned with the students, he ramped up the energy quite a bit with a little bit of help from some Cavalier friends. The goodie bags as Allen put it were much more than a simple bag of candy and small, miscellaneous swag. For the students that participated, they were greeted by the mascot duo of Moondog and Sir C.C., who joined Allen in handing out an iPad, a pair of Beats headphones, the Icon Edition of Allen’s jersey and a $100 Giant Eagle gift card for families to use to cover the expenses of holiday meals or just groceries in general.
“You don’t care about selfish people too much,” said Allen. “I think we all can say that. When you give a lot to everybody, it brings love and joy around. It brings everybody together.”
Moulthrop shared with Right Down Euclid that one student approached her asking if it was okay for their family to use the gift card to pay for groceries on Monday morning rather than later during the lead-up to Thanksgiving. While the question is innocent, it crystalizes how impactful Allen’s simple act of kindness was in giving a student and their family the ability to be well-fed leading up to or around the holidays.
Through that lens, it’s fitting that Allen, a man bigger than most, knows what he does off the court can be bigger than what he does on it. Getting to give back to the greater Cleveland community, especially around the season of giving, and a perfect way to kick off the celebration for the Cavaliers and the city as a whole.