ROCKFORD (WREX) — Fred VanVleet is in a giving mood. He'll likely sign the most lucrative contract ever for an athlete from Rockford in the coming days, but first he wants to make sure families in Rockford get a Thanksgiving meal. VanVleet donated 700 turkeys for his 3rd annual turkey giveaway, and volunteers handed them out in a drive-through manner at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
"We get a great response from the community," VanVleet's marketing director and longtime friend Marquez Beeks said. "Everybody loves that he's engaged with the community. Being that he's an NBA star and still comes back and gives back. That's been a big thing for him as well. We get a great response from the community. Any time they can put their hands on and he can put his hands in and make a big impact that's great."
The drive has grown in size as it's developed. Beeks says the first year they gave away 300 turkeys, and increased that to about 450 last year. The need is even greater this year with COVID-19 and all that's come along with it, so VanVleet and his team decided to up the ante.
"Going through this pandemic we've been going through, obviously times are kind of hard for a lot of families right now," Beeks said. "With Fred being as giving as he is, I think it's awesome for the community."
VanVleet's high school coach Bryan Ott came to hand out turkeys with some of his players, an experience the players appreciate.
"It's very cool to give back, especially now," Auburn basketball player Rob Chaney said. "We need to come together right now. This is a good thing for the city. Everybody is going to be able to eat this holiday."
VanVleet is setting the example for the next generation of Knights to follow.
"He's doing something for the whole city right now," Chaney said. "Especially at Auburn, a lot of people look past us. He's doing a really big thing right now. I look up to him a lot."
A lot of people look up to VanVleet. That's because he always keeps Rockford in his heart and mind, no matter how far away the game of basketball might take him.