NEW ORLEANS, La. – When the NBA suspended operations in March, Zion Williamson pledged to cover Smoothie King Center workers’ salaries the following 30 days.
New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner, Gayle Benson, also established an Arena Assistance Fund, donating $250,000 towards impacted employees.
Shayla Benoit said, “When Mrs. Benson comes in the arena, she always comes by me where I’m scanning tickets at.”
Shayla Benoit has been working at the Superdome and Smoothie King Center for 21 years.
As a mother of two, she says receiving the during the pandemic has meant a lot to her family.
Benoit said, “(The money) Pay bills and get food in the household. It was a big help.”
Her son, Jeremy Benoit, was a Senior Student-athlete at Eleanor McMain High School in New Orleans.
Jeremy played Running Back on the football team and ran track.
His Senior Track & Field season was cancelled because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Benoit said, “It took a toll on my son, not just him but all seniors because they work so hard for 4 years and have had everything taken away from them.”
Before the outbreak, Jeremy was a big fan of Zion Williamson.
So when he heard that the Pelicans rising star was helping his family, he was ecstatic.
Benoit said, “He was like I can’t believe it he was so excited like oh mom he’s about to help y’all.”
When Zion first made the announcement on his Instagram, he stated Smoothie King Center workers were “some of the most special people he’s met since he arrived in New Orleans” last June. Safe to say those feelings are mutual.
Benoit said, “He means a lot to the city of New Orleans. The way he adapted to the community that fast. Going to the children and everybody adapted to him real quick.”
Benoit says the hardest part is not being able to do what she loves, but she looks forward to the day she can say thank you to Zion and Gayle Benson.
Benoit said, “It’s like really heartbreaking. I am used to working, coming to seeing my friends. Can’t wait to come back and would also like to see Zion and Mrs. Benson.”