Thunder No Turkey at Gompers Holiday Feast
By Doug Carroll
Thunder officially has arrived in the big leagues.
The Antelopes’ mascot has always been a major deal at 33rd Avenue and Camelback, of course. But now the Horned One has participated in the annual Thanksgiving dinner at Gompers Habilitation Center, which brings together mascots from Phoenix-area pro sports teams for what Gompers’ executive director, Mark Jacoby, fondly calls “a cyclone of chaos.”
This year’s festivities took place on Thursday — a week before the holiday — at the North 27th Avenue center, not far from the GCU campus. The Gompers program serves more than 300 developmentally disabled participants of all ages.
The primary functions of the 27th Avenue site are a private school, an adult program and a dental center. There’s also a vocational center near 53rd Avenue and Bethany Home Road.
The Gorilla (Suns), Big Red (Cardinals), D. Baxter (Diamondbacks) and Howler (Coyotes) are treated like Hollywood celebrities when they visit for the holiday feast, which the center has been serving for more than 20 years. An invitation was extended to Thunder a few months ago.
Jacoby says Gompers once tried bringing out pro athletes, but that was met with a collective yawn by the clients. Only the Suns dance team stirred up much excitement.
The big, furry mascots are another story, however.
“Dude, this is bodacious!” exclaimed mascot superfan Gideon Goldstein after obtaining Thunder’s autograph and tucking it away in his lunchbox. “I love it! Oh yeah!”
As the Diamondbacks’ organist pumped out tunes in the Gompers gymnasium, the hardwood floor was transformed into a disco. This might have been Thanksgiving, but it looked and sounded more like New Year’s Eve. To the delight of all, Thunder jumped into the fray and began busting a few moves.
Jacoby says more than a dozen members of his staff, led by J.C. Gayton, are involved in pulling the event together.
“We did this back when it was small enough that the parents brought the food,” Jacoby says, admitting that those days are long gone.
Mack Sloan, an instructor in GCU’s College of Health Sciences, organized Thunder’s first visit to Gompers in June. Since then, Lisa Aaroe and the College of Education have been out to the site to volunteer their services.
Sloan said he is working on involvement by the College of Fine Arts and Production, as well.
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or [email protected].