Some students in the Kensington area go without coats during the Philadelphia winter. In the past, if they didn't have a coat they would either borrow from older siblings or miss school.
Sixers point guard Ben Simmons, with the help of Chester County-based nonprofit Operation Warm, is doing his part to fight the troubling trend.
On Wednesday, Simmons surprised students at William Cramp Elementary School by showing up with 750 coats to hand out to kids in need.
"I realized more now being here and seeing their faces and knowing they're going through a lot in terms of missing class and things like that because of the cold," Simmons said. "So for me to be able to give them a new coat means a lot."
Before Simmons arrived, students danced with Sixers mascot Franklin. After Simmons addressed the students, they were directed to the tables toward the back of the gym to pick up their new coat.
Jeanneylee Pena, a student at Cramp, had been wearing a sweater in the cold weather because she didn't have a coat. That changed Wednesday.
"It means a lot to me because I know some homeless people who don't have this type of stuff," Pena said.
The Sixers guard has held various community outreach events in Philadelphia since joining the Sixers. He hopes to help out most of the schools in the city in one way or another.
"I just think, overall, I just want to be able to reach out to all of the schools. And eventually be able to help most schools in Philadelphia," said Simmons. "Whatever way I can in some way and today we are starting with coats."
The mayor's office has designated Cramp Elementary as a community school, which means its students can reap the benefits of community-based programming like farmers' food exchanges and GED and English classes. The faculty at Cramp was recently presented with a teachers lounge and a new refrigerator.
"Ever since we have became one of the pilot community schools through the mayor's office we have had so many extra programs here," Cramp physical education teacher Joe Ciervo said. "Basically, so many parts of the community have invested in this school."