Utah Jazz's John Lucas III reaches out in wake of Salt Lake school lunch fiasco

Published: Monday, Feb. 10 2014 8:05 a.m. MST

Utah Jazz point guard John Lucas III (5) celebrates a basket late in the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at EnergySolutions Arena earlier this season.

Matt Gade, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Like many, John Lucas III was appalled when he found out Salt Lake City elementary school students had their lunches taken away and trashed a couple of weeks ago.

Lucas called his agent and told him, “Hey, man, that’s not right.”

Feeling annoyed and compassionate, Lucas decided to do some things that are very right.

For one thing, Lucas is planning on making a financial contribution to help fund Uintah Elementary School’s lunch program.

The NBA player, with a history of generosity and benevolent acts, also reached out to the family of one of the approximately 40 students whose meals were thrown in the garbage because of alleged insufficient funds in their school lunch accounts.

Lucas bought Jazz jerseys for an 11-year-old, a parent and four friends and purchased tickets so they could attend last Monday’s home game against the Toronto Raptors.

“I wanted them to enjoy the game because I know it’d been a rough couple of days for them,” Lucas said. “I just wanted them to forget about what was going on and just enjoy being a kid and not worrying about anything.”

The lucky fifth-grader and group got a chance to take fun photos with Lucas before tipoff and then sat near the Jazz bench during the game.

“He was so kind. It just touched me,” the student’s parent said. “We’re big Jazz fans. It was really cool and it lifted their spirits.”

Lucas said he didn’t want to make a big deal out of what he did for the students or school. His intention wasn’t to get media attention.

“To me, it’s not about that,” Lucas said. “It’s about kids. I wanted to put a smile on their face.”

He accomplished that. And in giving, Lucas also received heartwarming satisfaction from his thoughtful gesture.

“It turned out great,” he said. “I got to meet them. It’s a great group of kids.”

Lucas loved the fact that the friends play together on a Jr. Jazz team.

“They gave me a picture of them in their Jr. Jazz during the game during one of their games,” he said. “They all signed it and (wrote) thank you for me. I have it in my locker room. I love stuff like that.”

Lucas said the photo will remain in his locker until the end of the season. The 31-year-old will then take it to his home office like he does with other notes he receives from kids.

“I cherish stuff like that,” he said. “That’s bigger to me than a gift.”

The Salt Lake City School District has since apologized for the incident in which kids were given fruit and milk after having their lunch trays confiscated in front of other students. The policy has also been changed so children will receive full meals regardless of account balance.

While things are moving in a positive direction, Lucas thought it was “very weird” how things were handled at the elementary school that January day.

“Those kids have nothing to do with it. It’s not like they have jobs or anything like that,” Lucas said. “For them to do that in front of all the other kids, I can only imagine what the next couple of days were (like).”

Thanks to Lucas, the fifth-grader’s group had a “great night” the next Monday.

“He was so cute,” the student’s parent said. “They were just besides themselves. It was cool for me, too. It was awesome.”

EMAIL: jody@desnews.com

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