CLEVELAND — While all eyes may have been on the basketball court over NBA All-Star Weekend, local organizations were also in the spotlight as recipients of donations.
In the All-Star Game Sunday night, Team Lebron faced off against Team Durant. Both team captains selected local organizations to play for, LeBron James choosing to play for the Kent State I PROMISE Scholars Program, and Kevin Durant playing for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. While Team LeBron ultimately took home the trophy, both organizations walked away winners.
The Kent State University I PROMISE Scholars Program was awarded $450,000, and the Greater Cleveland Food Bank was given $300,000- donations both organizations said will help them continue to provide services and support for the community.
“I had the pleasure of sitting with one of our I PROMISE scholars, Anthony, beside me,” said Kent State University Senior Vice President and Provost Melody Tankersley, Ph.D. of watching Team Lebron take home the win. “I grabbed him in a hug and honestly started crying.”
The timing of the donation to the program comes as the first class of students with the LeBron James Family Foundation’s I PROMISE Network is in their freshman year at Kent State University. These students started with the I PROMISE program in third grade, according to James.
“These are kids that come from the same walks of life that I came from in Akron, Ohio,” said James. “For them to have an opportunity to graduate college, to be on a college campus, for them to have an opportunity to be able live dreams that they didn’t even believe or their families believed, this is something I envisioned for a long time.”
The scholars have all four years of tuition paid for at Kent State University, in addition to their first year of housing. This donation will help cover the 35 scholars’ expenses for the rest of their college careers, said Tankersley.
“That frees them up to know that they can concentrate on their education,” said Tankersley. “That they have that full cost of attendance paid for through what we provide through tuition, and now what this money will support for their years two, three and four for living in the dorms, for having a meal plan, for books, for resources for classes, for resources for educational experiences. This really gives them the opportunity to dream even bigger because we know that we have that covered.”
The provost also said the money will be able to go towards the next class of scholars, laying the foundation for future students.
Kristin Warzocha, President and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, said the organization is grateful for the support from the NBA and Cavaliers.
“We were just thrilled, over the moon, so excited and really humbled to be chosen,” Warzocha said of being the beneficiary for Team Durant.
In addition to the $300,000 awarded from the All-Star Game, Warzocha also said they were awarded a bonus contribution from State Farm on Sunday night. On Friday, the NBA also supported them by providing 150 volunteers to the Food Bank’s distribution center for NBA Cares.
“More than $300,000 is going to make more than a million meals possible to our 1,000 partner agencies in our six-county service area,” she said.
Warzocha said the impact of the pandemic has made the Food Bank busier than ever, rendering these dollars even more important.
“We’ve never seen anything like what happened when this pandemic first hit,” she said. “The amount of job loss, the amount of folks who were really struggling who never thought they would need emergency food. And while the numbers have come down some, thank goodness, they are still higher than pre-pandemic levels. Dollars from the community and from partners like the NBA are helping us continue to respond.”
In addition, through his performance as MVP during the All-Star Game, Steph Curry raised $108,000 for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
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