Local branches of Special Olympics, Boys & Girls Club selected as beneficiaries for All-Star Game

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Extensive renovations to Gainbridge Fieldhouse that wrapped up last summer will provide more premium spaces for corporate entertainment during All-Star Weekend. (IBJ photo/Mickey Shuey)

The NBA is poised to distribute more than $3 million to Indianapolis-area charities throughout All-Star Weekend Feb. 16-18, with two groups expected to collect $600,000 as beneficiaries during the marquee game on Sunday night.

The league announced Thursday that the Western Conference team will compete for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis while the Eastern Conference team will represent Special Olympics Indiana.

Each program is guaranteed to receive at least $100,000, with the organization represented by the winning team receiving an additional $240,000. Additionally, league sponsor State Farm plans to donate $1,900 for every assist made during the game, with that money split between the organizations, generating an estimated $150,000 to $175,000 in additional funds.

The not-for-profits were notified Wednesday of their selection, which will also include up to 150 tickets per organization for the All-Star Game—with some participants given an opportunity to meet this year’s players—as well as involvement in other events throughout the weekend.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis and Special Olympics Indiana were selected by the league in consultation with the Pacers and the host committee; each is a locally-operated subsidiary of a larger parent organization.

“For the NBA, it’s really in our DNA, giving back and supporting those organizations that are doing great work every day to support the communities where we live, work and play,” said Eric DiMiceli, vice president of social impact for the league. “These organizations have such an impact on so many lives. … We think this is a nice connection point to showcase what Special Olympics and Boys and Girls Club and every one [involved] throughout the weekend, does to give back to these communities every single day.”

DiMiceli said the NBA is hopeful by showcasing the organizations throughout coverage of All-Star Weekend—their names were shared during TNT’s reveal of the All-Star reserve players on Thursday night—others might also be inclined to make donations.

“Hopefully, more people will be made aware of the organizations, as well as more be inclined to be [financially] supportive or get engaged,” he said.

Maggie Lewis is CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis, which has 10 locations throughout Marion County serving more than 7,200 children. She said the exposure from the NBA All-Star Game could be “magical” for the organization and hopes it brings in continued support for its programs, both locally and across the United States.

“This is an opportunity to share and potentially pitch to more donors, more corporations” that would have an interest in supporting the group, she said.

She said the partnership with the NBA will allow many children in the program an opportunity to meet their heroes—professional basketball players—and make “lifelong memories” during All-Star Weekend.

“I don’t want to overlook the opportunity that this creates for the kids that we serve each and every day,” Lewis said. “It’s bigger than just the game; this experience will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

Jeff Mohler, CEO of Special Olympics Indiana, agreed, adding that for as beneficial as the financial donation will be to the group, the opportunity to recruit additional coaches is also of great importance. The organization serves more than 19,000 athletes across Indiana.

“Over the past three years, we’ve had more athlete participation than ever before,” Mohler said. “But we still have athletes on the sidelines because we don’t have enough coaches across the state. So, while the financial donation is tremendous and will absolutely help us expand what we do for our athletes,  I hope that the exposure really can help us promote ourselves to people across the state who want to get involved in sports and coaching people with intellectual disabilities.”

Special Olympics Indiana will have an opportunity to further showcase its mission of uplifting those with intellectual disabilities on the Saturday of All-Star Weekend, with a pair of games at the Indiana Convention Center between its two top ranked men’s and two top-ranked women’s teams in the state. The doubleheader is part of the Jr. NBA program at NBA Crossover.

“This exposure really gives legitimacy with what we’re trying to do,” said Mohler. “It really heightens the impact that we can have on our communities, so our athletes can get involved in many ways, not just in sports. Areas where they just need to be given a chance to prove that they can be successful, and that they can give back to their communities.”

Including donations to the Boys & Girls Club and Special Olympics programs, the NBA, the host committee and league partners plan to give more than $3 million to local not-for-profits in direct donations, experiences and legacy initiatives as well as the HBCU Classic basketball game planned for that Saturday. The host committee’s legacy efforts total more than $1.2 million, spanning numerous projects, scholarships and grants.

The league and its partners have also recruited more than 6,000 volunteers to participate in the packing of one million meals for Indiana residents experiencing hunger as part of a team-up with the Million Meal Movement.

The endeavor, which will run for 24 hours starting 4 p.m. Feb. 15, will involve local volunteers, corporate partners and partners as part of the NBA Cares All-Star Day of Service program.

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