Giving Back: Athletes and Entertainers Chime in on Charity, AIDS/HIV and Hurricane Katrina

By Michael Tillery
Updated: September 9, 2005

Rasheed Wallace (right) and Donovan McNabb

PHILADELPHIA — This past Saturday, Campell Field, with the Ben Franklin Bridge in the skyline, served as a great backdrop to what became a successful affair. The 3rd Annual Donovan McNabb/Rasheed Wallace Celebrity Softball Classic game became an afterthought to what both stars charities represented.

Donovan led off the game with a homerun and Rasheed later followed with a home run of his own to win 6-4. It felt good to see the smiles on young kids and well as seniors. Rasheed and Donovan’s caring personalities were made for such events. Happenings such as these make my already enjoyable job as a sports writer all the more worthwhile.

I interviewed numerous pro athletes, actors and entertainers. All were genuinely gracious enough to eloquently answer any question I posed to them. The organizers of this event, Brenda Thomas and Nicole Chatmon worked hard behind the scenes, but were always accesible when needed. They did a wonderful job of making myself, as well as my peers, feel at comfortable.

I will share with you the diverse opinions of superstar celebrities as well as a basketball team from a local high school, Leap Academy University Charter. This team is led by 24 year old Marco Morcos. He is a coach that has what it takes to be a true leader.

Any parent would be proud of this young man coaching his/her son. His mix of youthful exuberance and beyond his years maturity has rubbed off brilliantly on his team. The high schoolers I interviewed had words of passion, hope, resolution and intelligence.

Brenda Thomas, event organizer: “The classic initially started because Donovan and Rasheed just wanted to have some fun together while bringing attention to their respective charities. Children in a mostly underpriveleged Camden that don’t normally get to see celebrities are the most welcomed fans here”.

“The event was started three years ago and it’s getting bigger every year. We’ve given over three thousand complimentary tickets to sixteen churches and organizations. There is also a water drive in collaboration with Philly radio station 96.5 for Hurricane Katrina relief.”

The Rasheed A. Wallace foundation was created in 1997 for underpriveleged children in Portland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Durham, NC as well as selected other cities. Sheed’s goal is to help raise awareness of what he’s doing, special needs, and bringing events to those communities.

Wallace has continued in his community partnerships throughout the years and recently concluded his 2005 Summer Basketball Camp at Simon Gratz High School where he held a clinic for more than 300 community youth.

Established in 2000, the Donovan McNabb Foundation was established in June 2000 by Donovan in honor of his close family members that have been diagnosed with diabetes. His foundation recently donated $150,000 to the American Diabetes Association’s camping for young people with Diabetes.

To honor the donation, The association named it’s camp in Green Lane, PA, the Donovan McNabb Diabetes Camp for Kids. The camp hosts hundreds of young people who have diabetes each summer.

Over 15 million people in the United States alone have diabetes, but nearly 5 million people are unaware that they have contracted the disease. Preventative measures include education, regular exercise, controlled diet, and regular checkups by a doctor.

Here are some of the opinions offered by the celebrities. My questions ranged from AIDS/HIV, Hurricane Katrina, future goals and media scrutiny.

MT: “How are you going to support the victims of the killer storm Katrina?”

Donovan McNabb, QB Philadelphia Eagles: “Besides our foundation, we definitely want to do something obviously for what happened in the gulf states. I have family in MI, so I know it’s a tough deal for the families as well as people trhing to get in touch with their families. We are just trying to shine a little light and bring a smile to the faces of some of the people here. To try to bring a little joy out of this moment.”

MT: “Sheed your engaging personality has always been a hit with children. What are you thoughts on Katrina?”

Rasheed Wallace, Philly native and power forward for the Detroit Pistons: “I’m a friend. This event is a blessing for us to be here. I’m thankful that we are here and we woke up this morning. My heart pours out to the families and I will do anything and everything in my power to do my part in helping to resolve this situation quickly. I pray every day for the families that have lost or are currently missing their loved ones.”

MT: “Musiq, do you have any family members in the affected areas?”

Musiq Soulchild, platinum selling recording artist: “I don’t have any family members, but I think we are all family. Not just in situations like these, but everybody as human beings. The prevalent appearance of Blacks makes this almost a Black issue. I don’t want to say it, but I’m only stating the obvious. So there’s a lot of Black folk having a hard time dealing with things right now. I think we owe it to them to do what we can just in order to help them out and make things a little bit easier”.

“Anything matters because they are not picky right now. They really appreciate whatever kind of help that they can get. Whether you are a celebrity or a regular person, we all are people and we all go through stuff. So whenever somebody is in need and you are in a position to do something, it doesn’t hurt to help. It can only help the situation and make it better.”

MT: “What brings you here?”

Musiq: “I heard about Rasheed and Donovan’s event and it’s something good to be a part of. I came through to show love. It’s all in good fun.”

MT: “What’s going on in your flourishing career?”

Musiq: “I’m working on my new album. Hopefully it will be out at the top of next year. Look for a single around November.”

MT: “How has AIDS/HIV affected the world?”

Dakota Anderson, actor and stuntman, presently The Wire: “It’s a definite problem. Not just here but the motherland in Africa. I’ve been involved in some programs for relief in Africa. Sierra Leone, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe alone–this is two months ago–1.5 million kids are without parents. Three thousand people a week die. In Africa, AIDS/HIV is growing exponentially. It’s not just here, it’s everywhere.”

MT: “Do you think we as people had any control over how Hurrican Katrina crippled us?”

DA: “I think that’s an unfortunate incident that we didn’t have control over. I truly, and this is my personal opinion, feel that God sent a message to the world that we have to morally change the way we conduct ourselves as human beings. Everyone knows that New Orleans is one of the sin cities. According to the Bible, nothing that transpired is unusual. What has happened is unfortunate. It’s going to take people being slow in study to make everything right again. It’s a wake up call for us that we have to get our stuff right.”

MT: “What’s next for you?”

DA: “I’m looking for new representation. I have a film called “The Franchise” that I’m currently seeking funding for. I thought I was going to be working on Rush Hour 3, but I’m still looking for info to see what’s going on. I want to do stunts in the movie.”

MT: “Sonya, how do you feel AIDS/HIV has affected our community?”

Sonya John, actress The Wire: “That’s a helluva question to ask me at a softball game. She pauses. “I can’t answer that question in so short time.”

MT: “Have any of your friends or loved ones contracted the disease?” Sonya’s eyes well up. She peers into the skyline as if reminiscing.

SJ: “A friend of mines died in 1988. A very good friend I might add. He was 24. We were young in the suburbs of Va. I mean country. When he died of AIDS, everyone was shocked because he hid it for four years. There were four of us that ran together. He had it since he was nineteen. Everyone was afraid. They were afraid of him. Everyone was suspicious of him from the age of 20.”

MT: “What can we do as a society to combat this terrible disease?”

SJ: “Listen, just listen. The information is out there. People stop being hardheaded and listen.”

MT: “Seth you seem to be building a successful career, what’s next on your plate?”

Seth Gilliam, actor The Wire: “I just want stay consistent in being in three films and two plays a year.”

MT: “Comment on the strength of theAIDS/HIV epidemic”

SG: “It’s running rampant, but there seems to be a lot more awareness in the last five or six years. So hopefully we’ll actually be able to have a more cohesive attack.”

MT: “What can we do to better educate ourselves?”

SG: “The education starts in the home first and foremost. One of the problems is that there are a lot of kids that don’t have anybody observing them when they hit puberty. Community centers would be a good place to start. They would reinforce the lessons that were taught in school during the daytime.”

MT: “Have you seen a rift between races as a result of Hurricane Katrina?”

SG: “My sister and I have been talking about this since the hurricane hit. It’s a tremendous disaster and it eerily has helped to perpetuate the division between whites and blacks.”

MT: “How serious were the effects of Katrina?”

Fatman Scoop, hip hop hypeman: “That’s a very serious situation. You have people that are literally dying right in front of people’s faces. I’m gonna be honest with you. It hurts me to my heart because I take these things personally. I look at it like this. What if my daugher was over here, my son was over there, and I couldn’t find my wife? I would be dying inside. So I feel like we have to do whatever we can. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m donating money. I’m not Jay-Z. I’m not nobody big like that, but I’m going to do what I can do to help.”

MT: “How horriffic is AIDS/HIV?”

Scoop: “It’s nasty! You know we don’t have the proper resources or money to fight it. When you are Magic Johnson you have the money, but the average Black man out here doesn’t have that. It’s a shame, at the end of the day, we have to do what we have to do. I’m not saying be abstinent, but be smarter when it comes to sex and sharing needles so you don’t put yourself in the middle of that. It’s a disaster.”

MT: “What’s happening in your career?”

Scoop: “I’m just coming off the Missy record, the Mariah record. God willing I’ll have a record with Mary J. Blige soon. I just wanna keep working. I feel that if I keep working, I can’t lose.”

MT: “How devastating a time are the victims having?”

Marc Jackson, power forward/center, New Jersey Nets: “It’s a very devastating time. I just hoped that our response would have been a lot more quicker like in such things we’ve responded to across the world. Le’t hope in our own state that we can get them the help that they surely need.”

MT: ” How do you feel about AIDS/HIV as they pertain to the Black race?”

MJ: “The only way it’s going to change in the Black race is from us ourselves. We as Black people have to learn and educate our young. It starts with us. It doesn’t start with school teachers because the teachers are White, no offense. It starts with us teaching kids about the use of condoms and trying abstinence. It doesn’t have to be about videos and what the hear and what they see. It’s all about what they learn from their parents.”

MT: “How do you feel about the media scrutiny when it comes to Black athletes? Since changing teams in the off season, what do you want to accomplish this year?”

MJ: “The media is going to scrutinize us according to their particular characterization of us at the time. They portray us as the bad guy, but they also portray us as the heroes to bring the money. We have to stay positive and create better role models for everybody regardless of race. I want to win a championship, bottomline.”

MT: “How shocking is the effects of Hurricane Katrina?”

Fred Barnett, formerly WR Philadelphia Eagles: “Actually, it’s so unfortunate. You know we are used to seeing things like this happen to other countries, other people, you know people in Africa, people with the tsunami and everything. For this to be so close to home is shocking and unreal. I have a sister that lives in Houston and she went September 2nd to pick up two families. She said she went to the Astrodome and she just broke down in tears. Just to know that these people who once had a future, have nothing. I mean zero. They literally have to start over with their lives at this point. So it’s unfortunate. I think athletes are doing a great job from what I hear getting together and sending support to the victims.”

MT: “What are you doing in your post career?”

FB: “I’m doing some production work, pre-game radio for the Eagles, and I have a couple of TV shows that ABC is looking at. It’s a pretty excited time for me?”

MT: “Todd what’s going on with your knee? How is the rehab coming? What are your goals as an athlete?”

Todd Pinkston, WR Eagles: “I’m doing fine, the rehab is going well. It’s an everyday process. I want to be the best I can be and be ready for any position that God has prepared for me.”

MT: “Comment on Hurricane Katrina and AIDS/HIV”

TP: “In terms of AIDS/HIV, people need to take care of themselves. Be aware that it’s a lot of stuff going on out there. Hurricane Katrina has affected a lot of people. Not only in America, but the world in terms of relatives they may have in the affected areas.”

MT: “How does the media scrutinize athletes?”

TP: “I think the media puts athletes on a pedastal. To talk good or bad about us without know the entire story is irresponsible. Especially just for the sake of a scoop. You just have to take the bitter with the sweet and keep God personally strong.”

The true feel good moment of my day was when I took the Leap Academy University Charter team to the press box for an interview. The players of the team were as follows: Nathaniel Craig, Earl Knight, Gary Lyons, Michael Craig, Jamal Baylor-Ali, Anthony Russell, Nathaniel Cooper, Eric Johnson, Will Mace, Orlando Hildalgo, Jose Padilla, John Crawford, Emmanuel Neal, Chris Simmons and Dillon Talley.

MT: “How many kids in your athletic program and what is their age range? Can you comment on Hurricane Katrina and AIDS/HIV? What about media scrutiny? What are your goals?”

Coach Marco Morcos, 24, Head Coach: “There are thirty five players in our athletic program ages range from 14-18.”

“I feel like what’s going on down there is really devastating to America and the entire world. We have to better educate our cities as well as our people to better prepare themselves when natural disasters happen.”

“As far as AIDS, it really hits home because my best friend has contracted it. We as black men and women feel indestructible, that nothing can tear us down, that nothing will tear us down. AIDS is so prevalent in our community that we have to start educating our young ones from the age of seven or eight. They don’t know about AIDS/HIV but they do know what sex is. I’m a school teacher so we need to teach this kids what is really going on. Somebody said that in ten years one out of five people that shakes your hand will have this disease. It’s a killer. AIDS is the number one killer and Diabetes is number two. We have to educate ourselves. It’s terrible man.”

“I think they are portrayed in the light the carry themselves. If they are visible in the community and do their part with charities, then it will be reciprocated. I feel as though if I were one of these guys. I would do whatever I had to do to make a positive impact on anyone that was observing. Someone is always watching. If we can get one kid’s respect then he will tell someone else of the positive effect you have had. Make positive gains, not negative ones. I will carry myself with the utmost respect. Athletes can really make a difference if they apply themselves.”

“I want to move up from high school basketball. I’m the youngest coach in the state of NJ. I’ve been coaching since i’ve been twenty one. I attended Rutgers University, playing basketball there. I played in the Olympics twice–I’m originally from Alexandria, Egypt–playing against the U.S., Argentina, and Belgium to name a few. My father, who was an ambassador, and I migrated here eleven years ago. I could have played over seas, but I think I could make more of a positive impact by coaching. I brought my kids out here to help raise money for the relief fund.”

MT: “What do you feel about AIDS/HIV in the African American community? How has Hurricane Katrina affected us? What is your love?”

Earl Knight, 18, big forward, small forward: “We just can’t keep it in our past. If I ever had anybody in my family that had the disease, I wouldn’t know what to do. I live in a White community, but my neighborhood is Black. Blacks see sex differently than other races. Other races are more leisurely concerning sex. They don’t do it every day. We do it to past the time. That needs to change.”

“Well, I mean what happened is terrible. I have family down there. I pray for them every day. What Bush is doing is almost unholy. If he can’t get them the supplies they need that’s a shame. If there were mainly White people down there, most of the government officials would be down there handing out every dollar in their pockets.”

“My love is basketball. It’s a love that will never die.”

MT: “What do you want to do once you graduate?”

Nate Cooper, 17, center: “I want to major in computer technology. Attend college possibly at St. Peter’s for that. I also want to go to a division 1 school to play basketball.”

MT: “What are your thoughts on AIDS/HIV and Hurricane Katrina?”

Nate Cooper: “I think it’s really bad. The President is not giving us enough help to combat the disease. We need help. I was in Atlanta at the time. There were tornadoes in Georgia and North Carolina. It didn’t affect any of my family, but I’m praying for the people that are still there.”

MT: “How do you think Black athletes are portrayed in the media? Whose your favorite athlete? Are you a Christian?”

Nate Cooper: “I think that Black athletes are treated unfairly based on their appearance. If you get to know them you will see that they are good people. Allen Iverson gets a rap because of his hair. That’s not fair. Guys like he and Jameer Nelson are good for the league as well as society. I like Vince Carter because of his morals. I really like David Robinson because he is a Christian and speaks of God alot. Yes sir! Yes I am a Christian who attends Winslow Baptist Church.”

MT: “What are your future goals”

Nate Craig, 16, small and big forward: “I want to achieve greatness in high school, go to Georgetown or Villanova and get into the NBA soon.”

MT: “Comment on AID/HIV and Hurricane Katrina.”

Nate Craig: “It’s not too much I can say about it but to say that it’s a shame so many Black people have AIDS. It’s tearing the Black community apart. It’s terrible. New Orleans is one of my favorite cities. It’s tragic that so many people have no where to live.”

MT: “How do you feel athletes are portrayed in the press?”

Nate Craig: “To me they are all good guys. I don’t look at them as role models because I aspire to be one of them, and I will soon.”

These boys were so impressive. Earl Knight had this, shall I say, revolutionary calmness about him. His words are powerful and I honestly was in awe of how he articulated his words with passion and smoothness. I think he will become a great speaker one day.

Nate Cooper has these piercing eyes of a bird of prey. Like a noble eagle, the intensity in his soul is apparent just from his expressions. A very cool yet intense young man. His Christian beliefs are rare in this day and age.

Nate Craig has that star power about him. Any kid that says he will be in the NBA soon is something to behold. His talent proceeds him and I’m sure he’ll make due on his ultimate goal.

I wanted to show my readers that most athletes and entertainers are good at heart. I wanted to make a cross section of both young and old to prove my point. There is no doubt in my mind that Coach Marco Morcos and his kids will be successful. Donovan and Rasheed. I applaud you tremendously on creating this event for charity.

See how many people you have affected?