OXFORD TWP. – Christmas came early to the Crossroads for Youth campus as a group of big-hearted folks associated with the Detroit Pistons spent part of Saturday afternoon decorating for the holiday season and socializing with the kids.
Pistons with a Purpose, a philanthropic community service organization made up of people connected to the NBA team including players, coaches, trainers and their family members, purchased pre-lit Christmas trees for three residential buildings on the 320-acre campus.
They were delivered ahead of time, then on Saturday, Pistons with a Purpose members arrived with plenty of decorations, including some autographed ornaments, to trim them.
“How much better does it get than this? It’s fantastic,” said Marc Porter, president of Crossroads for Youth, which has been serving abused, neglected, disadvantaged and at-risk children since 1953. “I’m so happy for these kids that they get to have an experience like this. It’s something they’ll never forget.”
“I hope this shows them that people care about them,” said Kim Van Gundy, wife of Pistons Coach Stan Van Gundy and co-founder of Pistons with a Purpose. “Even though they’re not (living) in the typical home that we see in all the holiday movies and read about in traditional stories, they’re not forgotten. People are thinking of them.”
Most of all, Van Gundy just wanted the kids to “enjoy themselves” by having a “fun” and “special afternoon” that was a break from their everyday lives.
Jon Leuer, a power forward who signed with the Pistons in July, showed up with his fiancee, Keegan Bilick, to meet the Crossroads kids and help decorate.
“We just want to bring some smiles to their faces . . . and bring some joy to their day,” he said.
Leuer, an NBA player since 2011, said he always jumps at the chance “to make a big impact in young people’s lives,” whether it’s visiting children’s hospitals or talking to Boys and Girls Clubs.
“I just think it’s a worthwhile cause,” said the 27-year-old. “I remember when I was a kid looking up to NBA players.”
Bilick is of the same mind as her fiance.
“When it comes to kids, you can’t say no,” she said. “They’re doing such awesome work here (at Crossroads). We’re just happy to be a part of it.”
Pistons with a Purpose came to Crossroads because of a selfless and thoughtful young man named Re’Shov. Thanks to his caseworker, he was previously able to attend a Pistons event and meet the team.
“They treated me like I was a king,” Re’Shov said.
While there, Re’Shov commented that he wished the other kids at Crossroads could enjoy the same experience.
When Van Gundy heard about this, she got Pistons with a Purpose involved, which led to this special visit.
Re’Shov told this reporter he thinks of the people at Crossroads as “my family.” He was “very surprised and happy” the Pistons agreed to visit the campus.
“We’re more than just a team out there playing games. We’re really part of the community and (dedicated to) making a positive impact on the community,” said Pistons Coach Stan Van Gundy. “We hope we’re doing that today.”
“Make no mistake, we all get more out of it than the people that we’re coming out to see. This makes our day,” he noted.
His wife agreed.
“We all realize that we’re very blessed,” she said. “(This) gives us the opportunity to reach out a little bit and share some of our blessings.”
Porter wished to express his gratitude to both Pistons with a Purpose and the Pistons organization.
“I can’t thank them enough,” Porter said. “This provides hope for our kids. It shows them that there are people in the community that really do care about what happens to them.”