CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — A professional basketball player from Hampton Roads is helping make the holidays special for students at his former school.

Brooklyn Nets player Cam Thomas attended Portlock Primary School in Chesapeake. On Thursday, 17 pre-school students received gifts from the NBA player as a way to spread holiday cheer.

“We are so blessed,” said school Principal Heather Brusso.

Brusso says Thomas’ team and family reached out a couple of weeks ago asking how they could give back to Portlock students.

“We arranged it where the teachers reached out to the families on what were some of the things they wanted for the holidays and we got a great list together, emailed it to the team,” she said. “Within a short period of time, we had gifts rolling in. Our teachers wrapped them and had them hidden away for many days.”

The students opened their gifts while Thomas virtually watched from New York.

Brusso says the act of charity means a lot to the students.

“I am so excited. We are actually a Title I school. We have a very diverse population but it’s one of those things that’s an opportunity for these kids to get presents they might not be able to get for the holidays. The fact that he’s able to give these to the kids really, truly means a lot to them,” she said.

The students were not the only ones excited about the gifts and Thomas’ appearance.

Two of the teachers whose student received gifts also taught Thomas when he attended Portlock.

“She shared a story that he was outside at 3 years old playing basketball on a regular size hoop,” Brusso said about one of the teachers. “She says to this day, ‘I remember going over and playing basketball with him at 3 years old.’ She’s so proud of him. They both are. I’m proud of him and didn’t know him back then. It’s a wonderful opportunity.”

While students left with gifts they wished for Christmas, Brusso hopes they’ll also leave carrying the memory of this gift in their hearts.

“He is reaching out to his community to provide a little more joy and give back to the kids. I was truly touched because how many people do that? I would’ve loved to have that opportunity at 20-years-old to do that. That’s not common. I think it’s a great message to our kids to one, achieve your dreams, and two, even early in your career to give back to where you came from. I hope this is something they take with them each day,” she said.

Thomas was drafted the Brooklyn Nets in July.