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For Jarrett Allen, helping children with incarcerated parents is a slam dunk

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Brooklyn Nets v Toronto Raptors - Game Two Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In his first three years with the Nets — when he was between 19 to 21 years old — Jarrett Allen looked forward to his big annual community event, “Meals + Math,” where he would take 25 children, all of them with incarcerated parents, to Key Foods, hand them a $100 gift card and a calculator. The kids would then scatter about the store, filling their baskets while calculating what they had left on their card.

This year, he and his partners at City Harvest and Children of Promise realized that wouldn’t work in COVID times. But no one considered cancelling the event. The reverse was true. They knew children with incarcerated parents likely faced more hardships this year, as USA Today’s Mark Medina reported on Thanksgiving.

“I can’t imagine not being able to see one, if not both of my parents. So for me, being able to help the kids, bring smiles to their faces and bring joy to their lives, that has brought me a lot of joy,” Allen told Medina.

“The kids are doing pretty decent. I don’t think they know all the impact of what’s been going on with the virus and the economy. So it’s still great to see that they’re enjoying life. They obviously do know that they can’t go to school, parks and restaurants and all that. But they’re moving along.”

So, like the rest of us, “Meals + Math” went the Zoom route. Instead of offering advice to the kids as they scurried around a Key Foods Store in Brooklyn, he was on one end of a Zoom call, the youngsters on the other.

Here’s how it went...

“It was definitely different and kind of a blow with not being able to be there with them,” Allen told USA TODAY Sports. “But we were still being able to interact with them and were able to see some old and new faces...

“We had to almost pretend we were at the store on the Zoom call,” Allen added. “The Children of Promise and the proctors over there handled it amazingly. They helped the kids every step of the way. It was almost like we were at the grocery store again.”