As a six-time NBA all-Star and a five-time All-NBA selection, superstar center Dwight Howard is easily one of the best basketball players in the world.
But he’s also a lifesaver and a person who makes dreams come true. So says Orlando’s Phillip Gordon, whose life was touched by Dwight’s impact through the D12 foundation.
Once unsure of himself and uncertain about his future path, Gordon listened to the encouraging words provided by Dwight at the Parramore Kidz Zone and it has helped him get to a point now where he is on the cusp of getting a college degree. Gordon hopes to someday become a police officer in Orlando so that he can impact the lives of children the same way that Dwight shaped his dreams.
“Before Dwight came in and spoke to us about chasing our dreams I wanted to go to college, but didn’t know if I could do it. His motivational speeches motivated me to go farther in life. Where I am now I owe to Dwight,’’ Gordon said. “Not everybody is going to turn out being the kid who wants to go to (college). But having Dwight talk to kids like me, it motivated me to stay on track and follow my dreams. He helped me so much.’’
Dwight’s many charitable contributions to the Central Florida area were honored on Tuesday as part of the D12 Foundation Day in Orlando. City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer made that proclamation and pointed to Dwight being a different kind of superstar player. He lauded Dwight for having the drive to make a difference in his community.
“He’s meant a lot on the court to the Magic, but he’s meant so much to our community off the court as well,’’ Mayor Dyer said. “A lot of times you have athletes that aren’t role models, but Dwight has such good character and he’s a nice guy. He contributes to our community and he’s so fun to be around.’’
To celebrate D12 Foundation Day, Dwight hosted a mid-day party for more than 300 students from the Parramore Kidz Zone. Dwight first toured the Teen Shack where his $25,000 donation helped to buy computers, video games and flat-screen televisions.
After that, Dwight shot free throws with the kids, posed for pictures, slapped high fives and had his face painted by clowns. Throughout the event, several kids either threw their tiny arms around Dwight or smiled at him as a way of showing thanks for spending his time and spending his money at the Kidz Zone.
For Dwight, helping out those in need is his way of giving back and making a difference in the lives of those who need it most. Just hearing from Phillip Gordon and about his progress in college caused Dwight to shake his head and break into a wide, toothy smile.
“When I first got to Orlando one of my goals was to make this a better place for the people who live here,’’ Dwight said. “I’ve been here eight years and I’ve been able to see a lot of great things happen. It’s been nice to see.’’
Dwight started the D12 Foundation a year ago in an attempt to broaden the impact that he could have locally. He’s been especially active locally, supporting projects with the Boys and Girls Clubs, Florida Hospital for Children, the PKZ, The Beta Center and Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Dwight’s work at The Beta Center and at Florida Hospital for Children led to those facilities naming learning centers and playrooms in Dwight’s name.
Dwight said the goal of his foundation is to spread out his service throughout the country and around the world. He’s already started that process by aiding earthquake victims in Haiti the past two years and helping tornado victims in Alabama last year.
“It’s just great seeing the smiles on people’s faces, especially the kids,’’ Dwight said. “We started the foundation here in Orlando but we want it to go across the whole world. We started it here in Orlando and we’ve been to Alabama, Africa, Mongolia and we want to keep spreading the influence all over the world. No matter where I go or what I do, it’ll always be that way with me wanting to help people.’’