Story by Philip Sikes // Photos by Joshua Kelly and Kendall Seagroves // Video by Nik Conklin and Pieper Meredith
The holiday season is a stressful time for some. Final exams are much the same way for Clemson’s student-athlete population. That’s why an event such as Tiger Wonderland — put on by the members of the men’s and women’s basketball teams — came at the perfect time.
In conjunction with a host of partners — including Absolute Total Care, Academy Sports, Aramark and BI-LO — the concourse of Littlejohn Coliseum was transformed on Thursday, Dec. 11 into a festive holiday setting and area children were welcomed from Clemson Community Care. The purpose of the event? Simple, put smiles on the faces of the children and help provide them an unforgettable Christmas experience.
The children arrived by bus at Littlejohn’s East Gate and decorated gingerbread cookies with the players, before settling in for a hearty meal and a time of fellowship. Then, the players accompanied the children to their final destination — the North Pole — where Santa Claus and a huge batch of presents awaited.
Gabe DeVoe experienced Tiger Wonderland for the first time, and it gave him an appreciation for the platform he has as a Clemson basketball player.
“Coach (Brad) Brownell talked about that to us as after our practice (Thursday), the impact this event would have,” DeVoe said. “As an athlete, a lot of kids look up to you. It makes you feel good to have a positive impact like this.”
Though it was her fourth time, women’s senior Nikki Dixon said she circles the event on the calendar every year because of the joy it brings.
“Even if it’s not the child you’re paired with, you look around and see the kids jumping around and excited to get these gifts,” she said. “To be a part of it and help give back, it’s a really big deal. It makes you feel so much better to be a part of their happiness.”
Held annually since 2009, Tiger Wonderland has grown in scope and size with each and every year that passes. This year’s event marked the first for Absolute Total Care as a partner of Clemson Athletics, and it’s safe to say the event left a big impression with the organization.
“It’s heart-warming to see these kids be treated to a good Christmas,” said Ashlea Bailey, Absolute Total Care’s manager of marketing and communications. “We hear that every year it grows and gets bigger. It’s very well organized and I’m not sure Clemson Athletics could do a better job.”
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