ORLANDO – With one broad declaration Sunday night, superstar center Dwight Howard summed up what could very well double as the mission statement of the D12 Foundation and Dwight’s All-Star Charity Weekend.
“I’ve been so blessed in my life and now for me it’s just about doing what I can to bless others as much as I can,’’ Dwight said before flashing a broad smile.
Dwight wrapped up his first-ever All-Star Charity Weekend Sunday night with a star-studded basketball game at UCF Arena in Orlando. The game featured several of Dwight’s current Orlando Magic teammates such as Gilbert Arenas, Jameer Nelson, Ryan Anderson, Brandon Bass, Quentin Richardson and Daniel Orton. Other stars such as Josh Smith and Penny Hardaway were joined by former Magic players Rashard Lewis, Mike Miller, Drew Gooden, Trevor Ariza, Marcin Gortat, Courtney Lee and Steve Francis. The two teams were coached by rapper Lil’ Wayne and world champion boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The Old School squad, led by Hardaway, Gortat, Miller and Gooden, beat Dwight’s New School squad 114-102 before a crowd of more than 8,000 fans. Dwight thrilled the crowd throughout with eight dunks, including a dazzling one to end the game over Trevor Ariza.
“It’s just great all of the support that I got from the players and guys like Wayne and Floyd to put on a game like this,’’ Dwight said afterward. “We did all of this and put it together in two weeks and the turnout was amazing. The guys who were here are good people and they only support good people. This was a lot of fun for everybody.’’
Floyd Mayweather said he wanted to be involved in the event so that he could assist Dwight in any way that he could.
“I had fun. When I was told that Dwight was having a charity it didn’t matter to me what I did, but I wanted to be involved,’’ Mayweather said. “His personality is the best in his sport. Dwight’s a future Hall of Famer and any charity he does you can always count me in.’’
The group participated in a spirited bowling event on Saturday night and followed it up with a one-of-a-kind charity game. Dwight said he wanted the event to be more about entertainment and fun than just simply basketball, and Dwight did his best to entertain the raucous crowd.
“As ya’ll know, I like to entertain a little bit, so I wanted this game to be entertaining and something that people will remember for a lifetime,’’ Dwight said. “The basketball will and I don’t want people just remembering that Dwight made a finger roll layup. I want the memory to be something special that will stay with fans forever.’’
Even more important than making memories, Dwight is also making dreams come true as a part of his D12 Foundation. All of the proceeds from the tickets, donations and memorabilia auctions from Saturday and Sunday’s events went to charities. Dwight said his leadership team is still deciding where the funds can best go to use to help the community.
“Once things settle down we’re going to talk about how we can best attack with the proceeds,’’ Dwight said. “We have a couple of places where we want to send the money. I’ve done some work with The BETA Center in Orlando and Florida Hospital in the past, so those might be where we try to help out.’’
Dwight, the 2010-11 winner of the Rich and Helen DeVos Community Enrichment award, has made a point through the years to make a difference in his community and that’s just what he’s done through several projects.
In the past year alone, Dwight has been all over the globe providing funding and personal assistance to people in need. He recently spent a week in the United Republic of Tanzania where he continued his tireless efforts to promote education as a vehicle for economic and social development success among young boys and girls. He visited the Kipok Secondary School in the Monduli region and the Lunguya Secondary School in Shinyanga to donate more than $80,000 for their educational efforts.
During the catastrophic events in Haiti in early 2010, Dwight and the D12 Foundation began a program for sports and recreation to help alleviate some of the pain of traumatized children that eventually remained as a source of health care and educational development.
Dwight also made it a point to support each program and project not only monetarily, but also personally with his own sweat and hard work. D12 also partnered with Habitat for Humanity to rebuild houses for Alabamans whose homes were destroyed by the deadly April 2011 tornadoes and is continuing his efforts to change the world “one day at a time.’’
Dwight said that the All-Star Weekend surrounded mostly players with Orlando ties because he wanted to do something special for the Central Florida community. Dwight said not only does he miss basketball because of the lockout, but he also misses interacting with his loyal fans around the NBA.
“This is the best way to express how I feel about a certain group of people, Dwight said, referring to the basketball fans in Orlando. “My teammates and I talked about ways we could do things to better our community. This is for the fans here in Orlando. A lot of people asked my why we didn’t have players from other teams. But we just wanted to do this for Orlando and try to bring in as many Magic guys as we could.’’