by Greg Rappaport | Pacers.com
On Wednesday night at the RISE Learning Center, a school for special needs students, the ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the brand new Pacers Learn & Play Center. The center features not only a redone gymnasium with new flooring, but also a room with brand new exercise equipment (with a special Pacers paint job inside), as well as technology upgrades like touch screen tablets for the computer and information room.
PHOTO GALLERY: Pacers Refurbish RISE Learning Center »
In attendance were Pacers players George Hill and Chris Copeland, Vice President of Basketball Operations Peter Dinwiddie, Vice President for Player Relations Carl Daniels, Broadcaster Chris Denari, over 100 excited kids and parents—and of course, Boomer. The energetic mascot got the night started by jumping over five children in a single bound, as well as passing out a near-record amount of high fives to the excited kids.
“This was all made possible by the Pacers making the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago,” Denari told the eager crowd. “The NBA provides funding to do (community projects), and in partnership with the Pacers, RISE learning center is the beneficiary of that.”
So it was fitting that Hill and Copeland were in attendance; two players who were instrumental in the Pacers’ deep playoff run of last season. Prior to the ribbon being cut, Hill took to the podium to address the crowd and thank everyone in attendance. He and Cope also presented the RISE Learning Center with a customized jersey featuring the name “RISE” on the back, signed by all the Pacers.
“This is the city I grew up in all my life, and nothing makes me prouder than to always give back to my community,” Hill told the crowd, before presenting them all with tickets to an upcoming game.
“He’s the hometown hero, and he really embraces that nickname,” Dinwiddie said. “He is active and heavily involved in the community.”
After Hill and Copeland helped some of the kids work on their jump shots, it was finally time to break out the pair of comedically large scissors, and cut the ribbon for the ceremonial opening of the Pacers Learn & Play Center. As Cope and Hill cut the ribbon, the kids piled in to try out the new exercise equipment and meet the Pacers.
Along with the NBA and the Pacers Foundation, Aaron’s contributed a great deal of support for the project in the form of both donation and volunteer effort. The Pacers Learn & Play Center has been in the works since June, and the ribbon cutting marks the accomplishment of months of collaborative work from all parties involved.
“It’s been such a great project,” Pacers Director of Community Relations Kelli Towels said “The school itself, the staff has been amazing. Aaron’s, when they came on board, they just kind of took it up another notch. It’s been amazing.”