NORMAN — Jay Fair took lots away from two days at Kevin Durant's basketball camp — lessons in dribbling and defense, loads of memories, not to mention some pictures with the Thunder superstar himself.
But he left something behind, too.
Eighty pairs of shoes.
The 8-year-old from Rowlett, Texas, wanted to do something to help Oklahomans who were impacted by tornadoes in May, so he collected kids shoes. He knew there would be kids like him who would need shoes for school.
“We got that covered,” Jay said with endearing optimism. “You can go ahead and check that off the list.”
More than two months after so many storms devastated our state, we might think outsiders have largely forgotten about the victims, the recovery, the hurt. A bright-eyed boy from suburban Dallas assures us that isn't the case.
The whole thing started about a month ago when Jay's mom, Christina Fair, was in the car with him and his 5-year-old sister, Cameryn. Both of the kids' birthdays are in August, so Christina asked them what they wanted to do for their birthdays.
Cameryn wanted a paint party.
Jay had something else in mind.
“I don't think I want to get gifts this year,” he said. “I think I want to collect shoes.”
Jay has two passions — sports and weather. He spends as much time watching videos of tornadoes on YouTube as videos of his favorite athletes.
He wants to be a storm chaser one day.
“Plan A, basketball player,” he clarified. “Plan B, storm chaser.”
So, when tornadoes raked across Oklahoma in May, Jay was engrossed. He soaked up the coverage like a sponge, and when news came that Durant was making a million-dollar donation to storm relief, Jay heard and started talking about doing something himself.
“But he wasn't sure what,” his dad, Jamie, said.
He finally hit on an idea — shoes.
And when his mom asked him what he wanted for his birthday, he realized there wasn't anything that he needed. He has a TV in his room. An Xbox. A Wii. A piano.
“I'm set,” he said.
What he wanted was to collect shoes for storm victims, kids to be exact.
“If this is something you want to do,” his mom told him that day in the car, “you're going to have to write a letter and explain to all our friends and family what's going on.”
So, he did.
Dear Family and Friends,
I will not be getting gifts this year for my birthday. For my birthday I want to donate shoes for the people in Oklahoma. My goal is to try to get 50 or more pairs. Please get brand new shoes. You can get shoes for boys and girls any size. I have a lot of toys already and the people in Oklahoma need shoes.
He wrote the letter on his own, then his mom typed it up and emailed it to their family and friends. But it slowly spread to others. Their family and friends shared it with their family and friends.
Soon, shoes and donations started arriving at the Fairs' home. When all was said and done, Jay had 80 pairs of shoes, far surpassing his goal of 50 pairs, and he started making plans to send the shoes to the Durant Foundation.
Little did he know that he'd get to make a delivery.
Earlier this week, his parents gave him an early birthday present. Inside the wrapping was a box, and inside the box was a picture of Kevin Durant. A speech bubble had been added to the photo.
“Come join me at my basketball camp.”
“Why do you think we're going?” his mom asked.
“So I can meet Kevin Durant?” Jay said.
“Yeah, but what else?”
Jay thought a moment, then broke into a big smile.
“I can give him the shoes,” he exclaimed.
When the family arrived in Norman earlier this week, Christina sought out camp organizers so they could get some details about how to donate the shoes. But as she told the story of all that Jay had done, jaws dropped.
Camp organizers told KD, and KD wanted to meet Jay.
The superstar shook the 8-year-old's hand and asked him about what he'd done.
“He tried to say he wasn't nervous,” his mom said.
His dad jumped in.
“He was nervous.”
“He is tall,” he said.
What Jay has done makes him pretty big, too. Forgoing birthday presents. Having a shoe drive. Not just thinking of others but actually doing something to help them.
Remember, this is an 8-year-old.
“This is his own deal,” his dad said. “We just tell him when he does good things for people, good things will happen for you.”
He did good for Oklahoma.
Great for him.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.