Barea’s humanitarian trip to Puerto Rico

Practice Report: J.J. Barea

J.J. Barea describes the devastation that hit his native Puerto Rico and the relief efforts he's made with help from Mark Cuban and the citizens of Dallas.

DALLAS – From a logistical standpoint, there were a lot of important moving parts that occurred in order for Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea to make his humanitarian trip to Puerto Rico this past Tuesday.

For starters, a bevy of Mavs’ employees were heavily involved in the process of executing a journey of this magnitude. Particularly since Barea and a dozen of his close friends used one of the airplanes owned by Mavs owner Mark Cuban to fly into the San Juan airport while the once picturesque island is still recovering from the horrific devastation recently caused by Hurricane Maria.

Robert Hart, the senior vice-president of Mark Cuban Companies, admitted that this mission of goodwill was no ordinary road trip. And layers upon layers had to be uncovered before the trip could be consummated.

“It took a lot of people’s efforts,” Hart said. “This is the first time that we’ve ever had to do something this fast for a humanitarian kind of event. I know Mark has been really impressed with our aviation department, because of how fast they could turn this around. Mark is expecting everything at warped speed, and this was really done at warped speed.”

Hart said Cuban first approached him about flying to Puerto Rico last Friday afternoon. That occurred not long after Barea asked Cuban if he could borrow one of his planes so he could take supplies to Puerto Rico, and also bring back his mother and grandmother, among others.

Cuban’s 757 airplane, which the Mavs use to fly to road games, was available. Then came the arduous task of contacting officials in Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, to make sure the flight from Dallas could occur.

“I was in contact with the pilot and all the guys that run the Mavericks’ plane,” Barea said. “And after 100 or more emails and trying to get clearance from Puerto Rico – there were a lot of phone calls to Washington, back to Puerto Rico, back to Washington — finally we got cleared and then we were able to go.”

Since he is a native of Puerto Rico, Barea had to be the main ambassador in facilitating the trip.

“FEMA and the government in Puerto Rico were in control of what aircraft could land in San Juan,” Hart said. “J.J. facilitated and worked directly with the governor of Puerto Rico and his advisors, and was able to work with FEMA and facilitate our ability to fly into San Juan. There were a lot of limitations on our ability to fly in there. You couldn’t just be able to come in and give them a time and date. They had to make sure the traffic was free to bring in aid and supplies from the government and others.”

The Mavs also had to gently work around other pertinent restrictions.

“We were not able to fly at night, so we worked around how we were going to get in there at an earlier enough time that we could unload the aircraft and get out of San Juan before evening,” Hart said. “At that point we also worked with relationships that J.J. had as it relates to getting donations of a lot of soft goods that were needed down to Puerto Rico, as well as the Dallas Mavericks also had connections with charitable organizations who made some generous donations.”

The Mavs’ plane eventually left Dallas Love Field at 5:30 Tuesday morning and was back in Dallas at approximately 7:45 Tuesday evening.

“When we learned that J.J. wanted to take the plane down to Puerto Rico, we were happy to help in any way that we could,” said Katie Edwards, the Mavs’ director of community relations. “There were many emails and lots of people involved here and in Puerto Rico helping us get permission to land and arrange the flight, as well as coordinate donations from J.J.’s Foundation as well as several Mavs partners.”

Dirk Pettitt, the operations director for Mark Cuban Companies, said the belly of the plane the Mavs flew to Puerto Rico was full with supplies. That includes 32 generators/inverters that weighed 140 pounds apiece, 14,000 pounds of water, 10,000 pounds of food, 3,000 pounds of medical supplies, diapers, clothing, cleaning supplies, pet food and toilet paper.

“We bulked out our Boeing 757, meaning that we didn’t exceed our weight capacity, but we exceeded the maximum room capacity,” Pettitt said. “It was stuffed like a pig. And we took down enough fuel to circle for an hour. If we could not land (in Puerto Rico right away), we had enough fuel to get back to Miami and hold until we could get back down there. But ultimately we were able to get into San Juan, we did get fuel and we flew back to Dallas non-stop.”

Danny Bollinger, a photographer for the Mavs for the past 17 years, was on the plane with Barea and 10 others so he could chronicle the images which so many have seen on TV. Bollinger said it took approximately four hours to load the plane with its supplies, and just 90 minutes to unload it.

“On the trip, we just stayed on the tarmac of the airport,” Bollinger said. “They brought in big military-type trucks (to unload the supplies). A bunch of marines, a bunch of locals, J.J.’s family were all there.”

The entire scene was so surreal to Barea. To see the once quaint island of Puerto Rico struggling to stay afloat nearly brought him to tears.

“It’s awful,” Barea said of Puerto Rico. “We’ve been through it before, but nothing like this. Emotionally, (Tuesday) was a little tough when my mom saw me.

“My other brothers are in the states, too, so she was out of contact, but now they’re good. They’re here and they can do a lot, my mom especially. . .Now she can really get on the phones and start helping out a little bit more.”

Dallas attorney Braulio Gonzalez, who grew up in Puerto Rico and is a life-long friend of Barea’s, painted a dark description of things back home.

“It’s like landing in Dallas in December as opposed to landing in Dallas in July,” said Gonzalez, who was on the plane Tuesday with Barea. “Puerto Rico is a beautiful island where mountains are green everywhere, the beaches are amazing blue — and now it’s just brown.

“It doesn’t look like paradise any more. I’m sure it will again, but when we were flying in you start looking and it just looks like a bomb went off. You were lucky if you saw trees with leaves on them.”

Gonzalez credits the Mavs for stepping in and helping the folks in Puerto Rico during this stressful time in their life.

“Mark has always been gracious,” Gonzalez said. “Mark is a true dude, he’s got a big heart and he’s always there. It takes a lot of guts to say, ‘Hey, here’s the plane, take it, whatever you need.’ Mark is truly family.”

Gian Clavell, an undrafted rookie from Colorado State, said one of the reasons he signed with the Mavs this summer was because of the family-like atmosphere they instill.

“That’s why I picked the Mavericks, because of the kind of people that they are,” said Clavell, who also grew up in Puerto Rico. “They care about you.

“From top to bottom, they’re the best people and I couldn’t have made a better decision. That tells you what kind of guy Mark Cuban is, and the Dallas organization. That lets you know that they care about you and your family.”

That message of family-first was amplified even more when Mavs coach Rick Carlisle allowed Barea to skip the first day of practice on Tuesday so he could fly to Puerto Rico.

“When you play for the Mavericks or you work for the Mavericks and you’re a part of Mark’s family, he understands these types of situations,” Carlisle said. “It’s a catastrophic situation down there. People like Mark, they give their heart and soul to people that are the most important to them. It’s great to see, because I know it’s a really tough thing for J.J. to be going through. There’s a lot of attention on it, a lot of turmoil down there, no power, the streets are flooded, four-five hour gas lines. Just craziness down there.”

While the myriad of challenges the Mavs had to overcome in order to get to Puerto Rico were almost like trying to thread a needle, they deemed the critical mission as a success.

“Communication was extremely difficult, as there are no phones and many places are running on generators,” Edwards said. “Wal-Mart and many others donated supplies, water and generators.”

“And we had staff jumping in to leave their normal jobs to buy satellite phones and extension cords and all sorts of things to make sure they had the most critical needs taken care of. I think one thing that is amazing about working for the Mavericks is how quickly we can come together to make things happen.”

Hart said the Mavs will continue to jump through hoops and make other humanitarian trips to Puerto Rico to help those affected by Hurricane Maria.

“We received good news that we now have clearances for both our aircraft to make humanitarian aid flights to (Puerto Rico),” Hart said. “Our 757 will be making a second trip tomorrow (Friday).

“Also, in conjunction with our 767 operator — Atlas Airlines — our 767 will be making its first trip to (Puerto Rico) this coming Monday.”

Hart pointed out that Pettitt was able to accomplish his duties during the mission to Puerto Rico while basically working with half of his staff.

“It was a herculean task what he did to coordinate the logistics of being able to work with our operator of the 757 as well as all the different entities that were donating supplies to the airport, and handle the loading in time for the plane to leave at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning,” Hart said. “Usually we have two people like Dirk that’s working on that.”

“But Dirk was going solo during this period, so it was quite a challenge because Dirk’s colleague was out of town on vacation.”

Indeed, the mercurial behind-the-scenes activities where the Mavs had to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s in rapid-like fashion were remarkable.

“Mark Cuban was awesome, and all the staff with the plane situation,” Barea said. “It’s awesome the way this franchise and this team and the head guy, Mark and coach – they run this.”

“It’s a family and I’m proud and I’ll always be here.”

Hart, meanwhile, complimented those Mavs employees who dropped whatever they were doing to help Barea make this memorable trip to Puerto Rico, where 96 percent of the folks are without power and 48 percent are without drinking water. The response time is an accomplishment the Mavs are proud of.

“We’ve had to do things quickly in a task on certain things,” Hart said. “But this was kind of a lot of different moving parts that had to be addressed in very short order with limited communications on the other end, because we couldn’t get a hold of all the people because there weren’t any cell towers and there wasn’t any electricity in some areas, so it was very difficult.

“I think it was an amazing accomplishment by all the different people that were involved.”

And for the Mavs, because they were able to accomplish all of this at warped speed made the outcome even more rewarding.

Christmas Comes Early at Readers 2 Leaders

DALLAS – Time and time again, Norma Nelson took stock of the computers and chairs in the Computer Lab at Readers 2 Leaders reading instruction school and knew some changes desperately needed to be made.

The computers were outdated, the software was slow and the chairs were falling apart. And those three components at the West Dallas school made the lab less conducive to learning.

So Nelson applied for a grant from the Mavs Foundation – the foundation arm of the Dallas Mavericks. And the next thing she knew, the Mavs equipped Readers 2 Leaders with a new Reading & Learning Center, a separate Computer Lab, 15 brand new computers, chairs and computer desks.

“The kids walked in and I thought, ‘Well, I walked into a room full of happiness,’ ‘’ said Nelson, the executive director at Readers 2 Leaders. “I walked in and was surrounded by the kids all with smiles on their face who were excited to see the change.”

The urgent changes came with more space for the kids to learn, and up-to-date computers and software for them to keep pace with their contemporaries. Not to mention a warm environment to study and play while sitting in some user-friendly chairs.

“The computers are very cool,’’ said 11-year old Adrian Riuz, who has been a student at Readers 2 Leaders for four years. “The others were good computers, but they’re not really as good as these.”

Representatives from the Mavs Foundation, the Seth Curry Foundation, Pro Players Foundation and PPG/Glidden were on hand for the unveiling of the Computer Lab and Reading & Learning Center on September 11. Curry also stopped by to offer his support and share some words of encouragement with the students.

“The kids are very excited about the rooms, and I wanted to come in and help put in a computer lab and a reading room for the kids,” Curry said. “Like I was telling them earlier, my parents stressed to me the importance of school work and reading at a young age. So any time I can come in and use some resources that I have to help, it feels good to do that.”

Readers 2 Leaders tutors kids ages three through 12 who need extra assistance in reading so they can grow up and live a productive life. They offer in-school, after-school and summer camp programs, and were taken aback by the Mavs’ generous gifts.

Frank Gonzalez, a Readers 2 Leaders board member, said: “This is something that’s going to exceed everyone’s expectations for sure, especially the kids. Giving them access to having a computer allows them to be able to start thinking differently, and being able to have access to information that probably they didn’t have before is going to expand their horizons in so many different ways.”

Gonzalez applauded the Mavs for stepping into the community and lending a helping hand.

“I think its speaks really highly of the Mavericks’ organization to be able to reach out to the community and to the kids, and really show interest in reaching out and being able to help out and be an outreach to the youths,” Gonzalez said. “All the kids need is an opportunity to be able to better themselves.”

And that opportunity came compliments of the Mavs Foundation.

“We’re just so incredibly grateful for the support of the Mavs Foundation,” Nelson said. “The Computer Lab that we had before was falling apart. So when we found out about this opportunity, we applied thinking it would be a great opportunity for the kids to be able to walk into a lab that was brand new, that was a Dallas Mavericks theme. We applied and we were lucky enough to be selected and it’s just been incredible to see how excited and happy the kids are about this new place.”

Nelson admitted the school’s previous computers and chairs had seen their best days.

“Actually they were used computers that were donated to us,” Nelson said. “The software was kind of running behind and it was hard to update them and keep them current.”

“The chairs that we had were hand-me-downs, and a lot of them were ripped and they had seen some use and they were at the end of their life, so it was just so nice to have brand new furniture and brand new computers. We knew we needed new ones and it’s a big expense, so this was an amazing opportunity.”

An opportunity the Mavs have been doing across the Dallas/Fort Worth area for many years.

“That’s what’s great to see – the look on (the kids’) faces,” Mavs Foundation president Floyd Jahner said. “And the fact that with that excitement they’re going to really use the computers and hopefully keep reading more and be successful in school.

“That’s the end goal: to complete the education and really further the advancement in life.”

Curry noticed the unbridled joy and uncontrollable enthusiasm the students displayed when their teachers finally led them to the Computer Lab and Reading & Learning Center. As the students anxiously walked into the two rooms, it was as if this was Christmas in September.

“They were really genuinely excited,” Curry said. “They came in there and were jumping around and screaming. That was fun to watch. You obviously want the kids to use it and learn from it. But to see them having fun with it at the same time, that’s important, too.”

Creating Happy Summer Memories with Seth Curry

Seth Curry hosts Jr. NBA camp

Check out a recap of a Jr. NBA camp hosted by Seth Curry inside the Mavs' practice facility!

DALLAS – When Seth Curry thought about developing a summer basketball camp for kids, he knew he wanted to challenge them to tap into their mental capacity, not just into their athletic abilities.

Thus, in order to become one of the 100 kids chosen to participate in the free one-day Seth Curry Jr. NBA Camp, the campers had to submit an essay on why they should be the one chosen for this very special camp. Hundreds of applications were filed and read by Curry, who personally hand-picked the final 100 kids.

“I wanted to put on a back-to-school clinic for underprivileged kids to come out here for a free day of basketball to learn from me and the great coaches here,” Curry said. “The kids had to write a short essay on why they wanted to come to the camp, and my team and I read through them and picked out the 100 kids that were going to come.“

“I feel like I have a connection to each one of these kids who came, I know a little bit about their story. Not really by their face, but just reading their essays and knowing what some of the kids are going through and why they wanted to be here and how much they love basketball.”

The camp, held September 9 at the Dallas Mavericks’ practice facilities, is dear to Curry’s heart. His father, Dell Curry, played in the NBA from 1986-2002 and was known for hosting basketball camps for kids.

“My dad put on a camp for kids like this every year for pretty much his whole 16-year career, so I was able to watch what he did and wanted to have one of these (camps) myself growing up,” Curry said. “I came to camps like these as a kid and it was a lot of fun. They were some of my greatest memories growing up.”

“I’m fortunate to be able to flip the roles and be able to teach these kids.”

Shortly after the camp started, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle popped in and spoke to the kids. He also invited kids to tell the group of campers why they wanted to be a part of Curry’s camp.

“Coach Carlisle was talking to the kids and one kid came up and was explaining how he wanted to come so bad because he wasn’t able to do anything this summer with his family because they had to move and were looking for a house, so they weren’t able to go on vacation,” Curry said. “I was fortunate enough to put on this camp and it’s probably his bright spot of the summer before he goes back to school.”

The importance of the Jr. NBA Camp isn’t lost on Carlisle, who doubles as the president of the NBA Coaches Association.

“The Jr. NBA is a really important initiative in the league office,” Carlisle said. “It’s really important to the Coaches Association and it’s great to see guys like Seth Curry taking the lead and having a camp like this.”

“When I spoke to a few of the kids, their essay topics were wide-ranging, but all very sincere. So it’s a really cool thing.”

Ben Hunt, the manager of camps and community basketball for the Mavs, said it was cool for Curry to be thought-provoking and have the kids create an essay to gain entry into the camp.

“Having a clinic like this with Seth and the Mavs Basketball Academy coaches is just a wonderful opportunity for the kids to be here with us at this world-class practice facility,” Hunt said. “And as part of the Jr. NBA, we can help them develop confidence, team work and have a lot of fun.”

“Each and every one of these kids came in with different experiences. They had to go through the application process, and obviously they did a wonderful job because they’re here. And it was tremendous, too, that Seth took the time to read each and every one of those essays, and now they’re here and they get this opportunity – it’s really special.”

At the camp, the kids learned everything from ball-handling, dribbling and passing skills, to the ideal form utilized to shoot a basketball.

“Another important part of the game now is playing without the basketball, and that’s agility,” Hunt said. “Using their foot work, getting some foot speed and being able to maneuver through defenses and be more comfortable with a ball in their hands when that time comes.”

“We have some kids here who may play the game. We have some kids here who this may be the first time they’ve picked up a basketball. But they love the Mavs and they love Seth Curry and they love what we’re doing.”

Curry loves the fact that he’s touching lives in a positive way, changing attitudes and making a lasting difference in the community.

“First of all, I just wanted them to have fun and have good memories,” Curry said. “You want to teach them drills and you want them to get better at basketball. But they’re at the age where they just want to have fun and just be around the kids and be around NBA players like myself, and have good memories. I just want them to go to school next week and tell their friends they had a good time at this camp, and that will be a success for me.”

Before headed back on the court to work with the kids, Curry mentioned the difficult process of narrowing that list down to 100 campers.

“It was going to be 100 kids no matter how many people applied or tried to come,” he said. “It was just me reading through whichever ones I liked. Some of the kids are going through hard times off the court with their family, some of the kids were explaining how much they love basketball and how bad they want to be here. It just depended on how they wrote it and what message they were trying to give off. There were a lot of great stories from the kids who are at this camp and I’m glad we could create this special day for them.”

Helping Kids DREAM BIG

Seth Curry launches the EverFi program at KIPP Middle School

Check out the EverFi program, an effort launched at KIPP Middle School in Dallas in part by the Seth Curry Foundation to promote the entrepreneurial spirit in local youth!

DALLAS – Jaylee Bradford now knows the value of being an entrepreneur.

Once the Venture Entrepreneurial Expedition program was explained to Bradford, the light bulb seemingly lit-up in the head of the KIPP Destiny Middle School student. The path to financial freedom became much clearer.

Thus, it didn’t take long for Bradford to map out a long-range plan.

“The Venture program is helping me understand how to start a business and it’s explaining to me what I need to do in order to successfully start my business,” Bradford said. “When I grow up I want to become a veterinarian and have my own clinic because I don’t want to have to do what other people tell me to do. I want to be a boss.”

The Dallas Mavericks and the Seth Curry Foundation launched the Venture Entrepreneurial Expedition program – the EverFi program — at KIPP Destiny Middle School in South Oak Cliff. The program is a new educational initiative designed to teach students to think about entrepreneurship when it comes to both business and life.

The program’s digital course uses case studies, personal development activities and interactive business simulations to teach important basic skills. Also, students will develop a personalized plan for their business, in addition to a road map for career and academic success.

KeJuan Weaver, the coach and athletic director at KIPP Destiny Middle School, pinches himself when thinking about the various levels of business the EverFi program has to offer his students.

“We’re really excited to have this program at our school,” Weaver said. “We love having the students able to relate to entrepreneurs in the community and able to practice some of the lessons and see those things come to life within the program.”

“It’s very interactive, they get to play with different models and see different things before they actually happen in real life so that they can have this background and prior knowledge when it comes time for them to do their own thing.”

Curry, a guard with the Mavs, was more than happy to get involved with a project that will help spark a young person’s imagination.

“It’s definitely something I wish I had growing-up myself,” Curry said.

“I took a few business courses and entrepreneurial classes at Duke and I always wanted to give back to the community.”

While speaking at KIPP Destiny Middle School, Curry went to the computers where the students were working, interacted with them and let them explain to him exactly what they were doing.

“You can see how much they’ve invested in it and work hard at it and try to learn as much as possible.”

Nesaa Milligan, one of the students at KIPP Destiny Middle School, has already seen the advantages of the EverFi program.

“The EverFi program is helping me build my standards on how I can be a better leader and how I can be what I want to be when I grow up,” Milligan said. “I want to be a photographer, so I want to own my own business.”

Another KIPP Destiny Middle School student, Antonio Hodges, has analyzed the program on a much more personal level.

“Since I have a disability, this program helps me to make sure that I take care of myself some more,” Hodges said. “I really want to be a singer and I want to inspire everyone that we should really take care of each other and help the world be a better place.”

Curry has been involved with a lot of basketball camps, including one with his brother – Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry — earlier this summer in South Korea. But he wanted to offer kids another slice of life besides basketball.

“I was looking for different things to do in the community,” Curry said. “We were just thinking of ways you can give back and get out there and get invested in the city of Dallas and the kids.”

“I’ve been running the camps now for a couple of years and I felt like we can grow a little bit and do some different things. I had an opportunity to work with the Mavs and with EverFi to do this venture and it just made sense for all of us.”

Rick Nielsen, a member of the Seth Curry Foundation, applauds what Curry is trying to accomplish in South Oak Cliff.

“Right now we want everybody to dream big, especially with what’s going on in the world right now,” Nielsen said. “We really want these kids to focus on their goals and know they can achieve anything.”

Curry wasn’t so sure if he located any future Mark Cubans or Bill Gates among the KIPP Destiny Middle School students.

“I don’t see why not,” Curry said. “They all started somewhere. They’ll learn at a young age that a lot of people don’t learn until they get out of college, or in college. It’s a great way for them to get a jump start on their education.

“Just going by and looking at some of the programs and reading it and having them explain what they were learning, it seemed like they were interested and they’re invested. And like I said, this is a great program and knowledge that you actually need and want growing up. I’m sure it’ll benefit these kids a great amount and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

Weaver acknowledged that his students have been very inquisitive when it comes to soaking in all the education pertaining to the EverFi program.

“We’ve been in the program for about a week, and they’ve done really well,” Weaver said. “The only thing I’ve had to do is keep the conversation going once they finish because they’re really excited about it and they have so many questions.

“So my job as an educator is to just be that guide and help them out.”

Curry noted that Cuban has offered a lot of sage advice to him in regards to entrepreneurship. Advice that Curry found to be very productive when he spoke to the KIPP Destiny Middle School students.

“Being around (Cuban) during the season and talking to him about business ventures and entrepreneurial ways and just him telling me about his story, it’s very motivational in itself being around him,” Curry said. “He’s one to talk to you about anything that he went through, so I’m just trying to pass that same knowledge on.”

So what was the overriding message in Curry’s speech to the students?

“Just dream big,’’ he said. “Know what you have a passion for and have a set plan to make it happen, and just never give up.”

“I have a story myself of being an athlete who had many obstacles, so I’ll tell these kids the exact same thing. Off the court and being an entrepreneur, just persevere and do what you want to do.”

Back-To-School Cool

DALLAS – As the principal of Dallas Skyline High School, Dr. Janice Lombardi is all about tone-setting for her thousands of students. Especially the tone that’s set on the first day of school.

And for Dr. Lombardi and the approximately 5,000 students who recently started the 2017-18 school year at Skyline, no tone was better set than the opening-day gifts they received from the Dallas Mavericks.

While the students were filing into the various buildings to officially start this school year, the Mavs Dancers, ManiAACs, Champ and MavsMan handed them school supplies, including a notebook, pencil and a voucher to attend one of the team’s games this upcoming season.

Needless to say, Dr. Lombardi was elated.

“The students are so super excited because we don’t often get something of this caliber at our school,” Dr. Lombardi said. “So this is a big huge celebration for us and it really is going to open a great school year for us. It definitely sets the tone.”

“This is an exciting opening of school, particularly because we love basketball at Skyline and we’re just so excited to have the Dallas Mavericks, who are just like the pinnacle of everything here in Dallas.”

Earlier on opening day at another Dallas Independent School District school, the Mavs ManiAACs and Dancers and team personnel greeted students at Frank Guzick Elementary. They showered them with the same school supplies – plus a voucher to attend to a Mavs game this season – that they handed to the Skyline High School students.

Dr. Adreana Davis, the principal at Frank Guzick Elementary, was appreciative to the Mavs for thinking of her 700 students during a time when some parents are facing a financial crunch.

“We are beyond excited,” Dr. Davis said. “It’s always great to have our community partners come out and really bless our school, and we’re fortunate to have the Mavericks join in and really provide our kids with something that they need in order for them to be successful, and that’s always school supplies.”

The Mavs aren’t just supplying school supplies and game vouchers to students at Skyline High School and Frank Guzick Elementary. Every Dallas ISD student – over 158,000 of them – will be given notebooks, pencils and other schools supplies. And a voucher to attend an upcoming Mavs game.

Jessica Ferguson, whose daughter is a first-grader at Frank Guzick Elementary, championed the care package handed to them by the Mavs. “It was so awesome for my daughter to have this experience,” said Ferguson, who is not a Dallas native. “We’re not from here and we don’t have anything like this where I’m from, so it’s amazing.”

“I’m from Oklahoma. This is a big deal, so I thank you guys.”

It’s also a huge deal for Louis Thomas, a senior who helped Skyline to a 34-2 record and a berth in last season’s Class 6A state semifinals, where they lost a three-overtime thriller to Cypress Falls.

“This is a big honor,” Thomas said. “It makes us want to get back to ourselves and get back to state, and this time maybe win.”

The school supplies were pieced together by a company name Elevate. Jeff Sampson, the founder and president of Elevate, said he appreciates the Mavs involving him in this venture.

“We got the word that the Mavs needed these done, so we rushed them through the factory,” Sampson said. “Anything the Mavs can do to support the community and the city of Dallas is fantastic and we’re happy to be a part of it, too. The Mavs were gracious enough to let us join in and enjoy the whole event, so this is really, really rewarding.”

As her students were handed supplies by the Mavs contingent upon arrival to school, Dr. Davis kept smiling and was thankful the Mavs brought her students so much joy on the first day of school.

“We are glad that our kids and our families are blessed with such a great donation from (Mavs owner) Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks,” Dr. Davis said. “When I say that we are thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of this great venture that the Mavericks are having this school year, and then for the entire Dallas Independent School District, we were just excited to be the first ones here on the first day of school.”

Mavs 5K Brings Out the Best for a Good Cause

DALLAS – Not many runners had a more productive week than Gabriel Zambrano.

Earlier this week, the Fort Worth native won both the Rangers Labor Day 5K and the Fort Worth Runners Club 5K. Zambrano capped-off his spectacular week by winning the Mavs Run This Town 5K on Thursday night, which was held at Victory Plaza near American Airlines Center.

Zambrano, in fact, also won the Mavs Run This Town 5K last year. But going back-to-back was much more grueling considering what was on the 23-year old phenom’s schedule earlier this week.

“I had two races – one on Sunday and one on Monday – and I was able to win both of those,” Zambrano said. “But I was pretty beat up. I ran a season’s best on Monday and then I came back with another season’s best (Thursday). I went 15 (minutes) 26 (seconds) on Monday, but I didn’t think I’d be able to get another season’s best the same week.”

Proceeds from the Mavs Run This Town 5K benefits the Mavs Foundation to support those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Zambrano captured the Mavs Run This Town 5K in a mere 15 minutes and 18 seconds, and was never challenged. Daniel Wong finished a distance second in 16 minutes and three seconds.

Dallas’ Sheila Natho, 51, won the women’s division in 20 minutes and 20 seconds. Kelly O’Brien finished second in 21 minutes and four seconds.

This is the fourth year the Mavs have staged this event, and Natho has competed all four years. Her previous highest finish in this race was a fifth place.

“If it had been hot and muggy, I wouldn’t have raced it,” Natho said. “I would have run it for fun. But once I saw that the dew points were going to be in the 40s and the humidity was low I said, ‘Ok, I’m going to go for it.’ I don’t run well when it’s hot and muggy.”

Several husband and wife combinations were part of the 1,000 folks who participated in Thursday’s race. That includes Dan and Jane Henn of Dallas.

“This is my fourth year running in it and I came close to a personal best,” the 57-year old Dan Henn said. “I finished around 44 minutes and 30 seconds, so I’m pretty sure I’m not a medal winner, but I feel good. My wife ran, but she finished ahead of me because she’s a runner. I’m the slow poke in the family, but she’s five years younger than me.”

Dan Henn had a perfect explanation as to why his wife finished ahead of him.

“She used to do marathons and half marathons, and I walked on the treadmill at LA Fitness,” he said. “She was a runner when I first met her, she would get up at 4:30 in the morning and be at the gym at 5 and work out until 7. When I retired I said I can start going to the gym now. I get to walk off those margaritas or glasses of wine from the night before.”

The husband and wife team of 33-year old JP and 34-year old Stacy Ortiz from Wylie also competed in the Mavs Run This Town 5K. It marked the second time JP has participated in this event, and the first for Stacy.

“It’s a fantastic event,” JP Ortiz said. “I was here two years ago and I loved every minute of it and I said as soon as I got another chance I’m going to do it again. I had registered and everything for it last year, but I just couldn’t run because I think I had to work late.”

When asked if his wife finished ahead of him on Thursday, JP Ortiz smiled and said: “I couldn’t let that happen.”

In a drop-the-mic moment, Stacy Ortiz countered by saying: “I ran a half marathon. And he hasn’t. So, there you go.”

Tina Wilson of Dallas indicated that she draws inspiration from this annual race.

“This is my fourth time running in it and I’ve gotten better each year, except that third year because I was coming off an injury,” the 59-year old Wilson said. “I’ve been a runner since high school. Now that I’m older I appreciate it a lot more.”

Talk show host Valencia King of Garland also appreciated the time she was able to spend with her fellow runners.

“I ran it in last year and this year I ran about the same time,’’ the 25-year old King said. “Honestly, it’s just good to see everybody excited about getting out there and having fun while exercising and being healthy as well. And it brings the Mavericks community together, not just the Dallas community. The Mavs fans are some of the greatest fans in the world, so it’s a lot of fun.”

Howard Crawford didn’t realize how much fun he was in for until he – on a whim – decided to throw his name into the Mavs Run This Town 5K hat. In Dallas from Bristol, England – near London – Crawford is visiting relatives who convinced him to participate in this race.

“My cousin said there’s a 5K run,” the 51-year old Crawford said. “He told me (Wednesday) night. I was eating some dinner and he came home from work and he asked are we going to run, and I said. ‘Ok, I’ll do it.’ ‘’

Crawford didn’t regret his decision.

“It was fantastic,” he said. “The race, I’ve never done anything like that, but I can do it again. It was really, really nice, and I had a real good time. The courtesy has been great, the city of Dallas is a lovely city, and I do love the Mavericks. This was right on time.”

Wilson also thought it was right on time for the Mavs to use this race as a venture to offer financial assistance to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

“I’ve been behind the Mavericks for a long time, so anything they do I try to support it,” Wilson said. “As long as my knees and my Achilles can hold up, I’m doing it.”

Dan Henn also was emotionally moved that the participation by those in Thursday’s race would be for a good cause. Henn said: “It just makes me proud to know that the Mavs care not only about the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, but the entire state of Texas.”

King concurred, saying: “ It speaks to what the Mavericks community is as a whole, just the fact that even more people would come out to support the victims of Hurricane Harvey. That way their donation is made for a good cause – for a 5K with a purpose.”

“So you’re not just out here to have fun. But now you’re actually supporting a cause as well.”

MBA Coach Bleeds Mavs Blue

DALLAS – Victor Cathey has been involved with the Dallas Mavericks for so long he might as well become an adopted member of the North Texas organization.

Cathey, 37, is one of the Mavs Basketball Academy directors. But his journey with the Mavs started nearly three decades ago.

Actually, Cathey attended his first Mavs Hoop Camp in 1992 when he was a mere 12 years old. Since then, he has become one of the Mavs’ ball kids, a camp coach and now works as one of the camp’s directors.

In other words, Cathey bleeds Mavericks’ blue.

“I’ve been doing Mavs camps for 14 years now,” a jubilant Cathey said. “Being with the Mavs has surrounded me with positive people who have strong character who really live out their own personal mission through educating athletes.

“They also understand that nothing comes without hard work, and if it comes without hard work you really won’t enjoy the blessings of your labor and you won’t enjoy the fruits of your labor with anything that’s given to you. Everything that we learn at camp takes work and ability.”

Cathey has been such a permanent fixture with the Mavs that he has made this mission a family affair. So much so that his three boys – 11-year old Noah and nine-year old twins Caleb and Luke – are also members of the Mavs Hoop Camp.

“Noah is a camp kid and he goes to several camps throughout the year,” Cathey said. “And my twins are nine, so they were thrilled when they turned the age of eight because they got a chance to tag along and got a chance to become like (Mavs owner) Mark Cuban says, a MFFL (Mavs Fan For Life).”

At the urgence of Greg Nared – the Vice President of Mavs Basketball Academy — Cathey has enjoyed the good fortune of coaching his kids at the Mavs’ camps.

“When they turned eight (Nared) was very instrumental in me bringing the boys,” Cathey said. “He said, ‘Let your boys have an opportunity to learn what you teach these other kids each and every day.’ “

“And because of that opportunity the Mavericks have opened the door for what I like to call a family environment. The coaches at Mavs’ camps have taken the boys under their wing as well. It’s a great opportunity for me to not only take them, but to open up the fraternity of other coaches that I’m coaching with.”

For Cathey, being around his three kids all day at the Mavs Hoop Camp helps them develop a special bond.

“It’s a joy to coach your own kids because it’s just another opportunity as a father for you to get a chance to spend more time with your own kids, and at the same time you get a chance to teach them the game of basketball the right way,” Cathey said. “It’s fun and it’s a pleasure having them at camp and getting a chance to interact with them. And when the ball kids come out and when the ball players come out and the mascots come out, you see them really get a chance to interact and enjoy being around other Hoop Camp kids.”

Nared praised Cathey for his dedication to the Mavs and to all of the campers. Nared said it is as if this is Cathey’s ultimate mission in life.

“He just exemplifies that great attitude and energy and respect from not only the coaches here on our staff, but also from the kids,” Nared said. “His energy is just electric.”

“It’s easy for him to be a part of our program and part of our coach’s association. No. 1, he loves the Mavs, and No. 2, he believes in what we’re doing on our youth basketball side, even to the point where now he has three boys who attends camps.”

Cathey’s first of five seasons as a ball kid was in 1992 – the year the Mavs used the fourth overall pick in the National Basketball Association draft to select Jim Jackson. When Jackson finally showed up after holding out the first 54 games in a contract dispute, Cathey was obviously star-struck.

“I was a ball kid for five years, sweeping floors, passing out stuff in the hallways, to going all the way to having a chance to work in the locker room,” Cathey said. “Jim was a great guy, and when I worked my way to be in the locker room I tried to emulate his jump shot as well.”

“And through the people around me in those camps back then – Rolando Blackman for one – they all taught you the value of doing things right, having character, being honest and living out the golden rule.”

Cathey acknowledged that he also was heavily influenced by Jason Kidd, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1994 draft by the Mavs.

“During his tenure (with the Mavs) is when I spent a lot more time in the locker room,” Cathey said. “I would say one of the best lessons that he taught me was that you don’t have to score a point to be effective in a ballgame.”

“He said you can play good defense, you can get other teammates involved, and you can leave an impact on a game without even scoring a point.”

Today, in his role as a camp director, Cathey insists that messages he learned from Mavs players in the 1990’s still carry the same necessary weight.

“The valuable lessons of things back in the late 80’s and early 90’s haven’t changed,” said Cathey, who graduated from Dallas Christian School in 1998. “The value system is still there, and the only things that have changed are our kids.

“We have the same mission of teaching one kid at a time, giving them the values of doing what’s right, and making sure they have the character traits of being a leader. And the most important thing is learning a work ethic.”

As Cathey’s involvement with the Mavs have encompassed three different decades, Nared has watched the Dallas native’s leadership skills soar to exceptional heights. “He’s just a great person and he’s great to be around,” Nared said. “And he gets it from the standpoint of great work ethics, he’s always on time, he’s great with the kids and he’s great with the coaches. He believes in what we’re doing and what we’re trying to accomplish in terms of giving back to the community from the Mavericks’ organization standpoint, to making sure that the kids have a wonderful experience every day at camp. So he gets it, which is naturally awesome from our standpoint.”

From Cathey’s standpoint, that experience has now covered two generations of his family.

“He’s a Mavs Fan For Life and he’ll be the first to tell you that, and it’s trickled all the way down to his kids,” Nared said. “He’s been around (Mavs) players, he’s been around coaches for the Mavericks, and of course all of the participants who’ve attended our camps.”

“He loves what the Dallas Mavericks are all about and he’s such a community guy. He loves the fact that the Mavericks give back to the community in such a big way.”

In essence, Cathey has gone from a 12-year old kid participating in a Mavs Hoops Camp to being a camp director who, at times, has as many as 14 coaches working under him on any given week.

As the face of the camp for that week, Cathey’s role includes, among other things, teaching, making sure the kids are in the right place and answering questions from the parents.

“If you come to a Mavs camp you’re going to have the ability to strengthen the fundamental skills to go try out for a basketball team in middle school, or to try out for a basketball team in high school,” Cathey said. “Or if you just want to continue to live out a physical fitness lifestyle in recreation, we’re going to give you the skills in order to compete at any level.”

And for Cathey and his three boys, that concept means the Mavs have become a viable part of his extended family. For life.

“Some of the coaches that I’ve had a chance to work with, it’s really a family atmosphere to get a chance to watch our kids grow up together at the camps,” Cathey said. “We get a chance to teach everybody else.

“But it means a little bit more when those great coaches that you work with each and every day get a chance to coach your kids as well.”

Strength and Comfort in West

WEST, TX – On a brisk August afternoon 20 miles north of Waco, 12-year old Maci Kolar was busy working on her basketball game on a new court furnished by the Mavs Foundation, the private foundation arm of the Dallas Mavericks.

For Kolar and other kids like her, this court represents the culmination of a dream come true, and the culmination of some wounds being healed.

“I’m always here and I love this court,” Kolar said. “Me and my friends come here every day, and we have tournaments here all the time on weekends.”

“When I came by and saw it was destroyed, it was really frustrating and sad. But when all this came up, I was glad that the Mavericks came out here and did it.”

The old park and basketball court were the centerpiece of West, a rural town with some 2,600 residents. The park and basketball court were destroyed when the town’s fertilizer plant caught fire and then exploded on April 17, 2013, killing 12 first responders and three other citizens.

One of those first responders killed was firefighter Joey Pustejovsky. Shortly thereafter, Pustejovsky’s then four-year-old son, Parker, set out on a mission to rebuild the park and basketball court by selling hotdogs alongside his classmates.

Today, that park and basketball court has been rebuilt and is unofficially named Parker’s Park, thanks to the generous efforts of Parker, the Mavs and friends at the City of West, Coca Cola and Pro Players Foundation. The unveiling of the Mavs Foundation court was held in July 2016 and was followed by a basketball clinic for over 100 kids that was hosted by the Mavs Basketball Academy coaches.

“Everyone from (Parker’s) class came that day,’’ said Parker’s mother, Lindsey Vanek. “All of his classmates were there, they had on the Mavericks t-shirts, they had a celebration and that was really special, and he got to cut the nets.”

“Our kids, they’re very sports-oriented here in our town and they needed somewhere to go. It’s really good and it’s really nice, and I think it’s lifted the spirits of everybody in the town.”

The Mavs originally visited the folks in West and held a pep rally in the summer of 2013 – not long after the explosion – to try and help soothe some broken hearts. Joey Kolar said there was “a buzz about town’’ once word spread that the Mavs were coming back to help the citizens of West.

And during the basketball court’s ceremonial unveiling, Joey Kolar said: “We had between 1,000-1,500 people out here. You could just tell, especially the kids, having the joy of being out here and being able to shoot some hoops again. This was our only outdoor court that was used by the public and it was destroyed, so for (the Mavs) to come back and help us get it back, now driving by every single day that joy still continues because in the evenings whenever I get off work I’ll see 15-20 kids out here every day playing ball.”

“It’s like it was whenever I was growing up – you’ll have people back out here using it — so it’s incredible to see. It’s still surreal. I think everybody was just overwhelmed with the excitement to have the Mavericks come down and help us get this the way it is now, because it’s beautiful.”

West mayor Tommy Muska, who acknowledged that Parker’s hot-dog selling venture raised approximately $100,000, echoed Joey Kolar’s sentiments.

“I’m just so proud that we were the benefactors of the Mavericks generosity,” Muska said. “It was a generous, generous donation by the Mavs Foundation and their partners working together with the city and Parker’s Park and the long-term recovery to build a fantastic basketball court that is being used daily.”

“It’s a good feeling in your heart that the young people have a place to go, it’s safe and they’re able to utilize that facility that was made possible by the Mavericks.”

Joey Kolar credits Katie Edwards –the director of community relations and Mavs Foundation – for conscientiously spearheaded the effort to assist West with its healing process through the building of the town’s new basketball court.

“Katie Edwards with the Mavs Foundation, she was incredible to work with,” Joey Kolar said. “She and I communicated a lot via email, phone calls, text messages. Their entire organization was just awesome to work with. They simplified the process, and they really took charge of everything.”

When the Mavs heard about the explosion in West, they wanted to assist in some way with the recovery process.

“The Mavericks wanted to help any way we could from the beginning,” Edwards said. “Starting from lifting spirits with a pep rally and going down right after the explosion, but also when we heard about Parker and what he was doing for the community and how he was bringing everyone together to rebuild the park. The Mavs Foundation was ready to help build the basketball court for the kids and the community in West.”

“We joined with other supporters and partners in West so that they could have that huge double basketball court with the tennis court. That’s one of the largest projects that we’ve ever done. The Sport Court is just great because it’s safer and helps it last longer. It’s a great opportunity for them to keep it for a really long time.”

Parker’s grandfather, Joe Pustejovsky, said the anticipation of the Mavs building a basketball court in West reached a fever pitch and was the constant talk around various water coolers all across town.

“From the very first time that we heard that it was a possibility that it was going to happen, the community was just like, ‘When, when, when, when is this going to happen?,’ ‘’ Pustejovsky said. “Of course, after it happened there may be 50 kids on this court on the weekends playing basketball on all courts.”

“It’s just an awesome thing for the community. Everybody just loves it. Here we are in this small town, and to have someone step forward like that and present this facility to this community, it’s just overwhelming.”

The basketball court has four goals, and also nets are set up if patrons want to play tennis.

Parker, a shy-type who is now eight-years old, certainly has given the new basketball court his seal of approval.

“I like it, I love it,” he said.

Asked how many hotdogs did he sell to help make this happen, Parker said: “Probably about a million. I wanted to sell hotdogs.”

And it’s not just the folks in West who are enjoying the new basketball court.

“We’re a pretty rural community and there are some small schools within a 30-mile radius,” Pustejovsky said. “In April and May there were busses up here from 40-50 miles away that bring their kids out here to play on the court.”

“Sometimes it’ll be two different schools here on the same day. It’s not only the citizens of West and this tight-knit community. It reaches out past the boundaries of this community, and they know they’re welcomed.”

As West continues to heal from the fertilizer explosion, Pustejovsky recalls the day his youngest son – Joey Pustejovsky was just 29 years old at the time of his death – went to work. His intuition also told him something he doesn’t wish on any father.

“Whenever I heard the explosion I knew what happened and I knew exactly where he was because that’s what he did,” Pustejovsky said of his son. “He was most likely the first one on the scene trying to protect the citizens of West.”

Over 100 homes and several businesses were destroyed in the explosion. The town’s public high school, middle school and intermediate schools were also heavily damaged and had to be torn down and rebuilt.

Numerous brick homes have been rebuilt for several blocks in proximity to where the fertilizer plant once stood as West continues to pick itself up by its bootstraps and become a vibrant farming community again.

“All the houses were leveled, you couldn’t get back into this particular area for two weeks, and that’s just from the housing side of it,” Joey Kolar said. “As far as the lives that were lost, that hurt the most. When you have 15 total deaths just taken like that in such a small-knit community like what we have, it was a healing process.”

“And I think whenever we started this park rebuilding, that was one of the few times that we actually began to really heal with all this, just because we came together through all the pain and sorrow and we found joy in an event like this. So for the project to have continued to turn into what we have today, it was awesome.”

That helping hand the city of West received from the Mavs came at the right time.

“I think it was something that was an easy decision to make because of the devastation that they had there in the community. To have such tragedy and loss and yet be ready to come together and rebuild,” Edwards said. “The community there in West is a really small close-knit community and they really wanted to help each other and it made it something that we really wanted to be a part of.”

Parker’s Park, according to Vanek, almost never materialized considering Parker was near the fertilizer plant with a relative when the explosion occurred.

“My best estimate is that he was maybe 200 yards from that explosion at the time of the explosion,” Vanek said. “God had his hands wrapped around him that day because I honestly think just a change in the wind pattern or something, he wouldn’t be here today to talk about it.”

Less than 10 days after the explosion is when Parker told his grandfather that he wanted to rebuild the park.

“This was like a war zone and we were driving from the house and he just wanted to see what it looked like,” Pustejovsky said. “You couldn’t enter it, but he said that he had a project that he wanted to do, and my wife and I we asked him what that project was, and he said, ‘I want to rebuild the park.’ “

“My wife and I kind of toyed with the idea for a little while and I said, ‘You know he can’t do this himself, we’re going to have to make it happen. He had the idea, but we’re going to have to make sure that his idea doesn’t just fall by the wayside.’ ‘’

As the emotional scars from the 2013 explosion subsides, Joey Kolar, Maci Kolar, Muska, Pustejovsky, Vanek and Parker are thankful the Mavs were there to provide them with strength and comfort during a difficult journey in their life.

“I think it’s going to be one of those things that, as time passes, we’re going to be able to continue and get over our grieving,” Joey Kolar said. “The scars will always be there of course, but at the same time we’re a strong faith-based community and I think that’s what really got us through all of it.”

“But the Mavericks, they stayed steady and whenever we were ready, the Mavericks communicated back with the city, at which point we got in contact with them and started working with them. They did an incredible job of just keeping West in their hearts and in their minds and following up with us.”

And that follow-up by the Mavs was much appreciated by Muska.

“They did not have to come here, and they were instrumental right after the explosion, too,” Muska said. “They came down here and they met the kids and had a clinic and brought their big TV down here. It was so neat to see the kids when they did that day clinic to get their minds off of not having a home. I’m just so proud to be associated with a fine organization like the Mavericks.”

A Mavs Gaming Surprise for Prestun

DALLAS – The generosity of the Dallas Mavericks isn’t confined to just the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Or even to the state of Texas for that matter.

In the case of Prestun Seibel, the Mavs reached out over 1,100 miles to lend a gracious helping hand to a 7 year-old kid from Orlando, Florida who has been battling brain cancer for the past five years. After discovering Seibel’s situation via social media, Anthony Muraco set several wheels in motion that ultimately led to Seibel receiving a custom-made Mavs jersey with his name on it – and autographed by superstar forward Dirk Nowitzki – and numerous other Mavs-related gaming gear.

And not only that, after finding out that Seibel is a diehard fan of video games, Muraco telephoned someone he had just met at GameStop and arranged for them to award Seibel with some complimentary video games and other items.

“I actually came across the post about Prestun on one of my friend’s Twitter accounts,’’ said Muraco, who works as the Esports manager for the Mavs. “And being in the position that I’m in now, I felt touched by the fact that he uses video games to recover from his chemotherapy and keep his positive attitude, and I thought it is a good way for me to get acclimated into the community and give back considering that I am privileged enough to be put in the position that I’m in. I can actually now reach out to developers that I know, reach out to the sponsors that we’re working with to get help.”

Muraco’s actions were definitely noble considering he just started working with Mavs Gaming and the new NBA2k Esports League on May 8th. But a long-standing policy of helping the less fortunate has always been met with approval by owner Mark Cuban, regardless of where that person lives.

“I came across the post about three weeks ago and then I reached out to GameStop because they’re a great partner and we’re doing some work with them,” Muraco said. “I reached out and said ‘Hey, I came across this kid, he loves video games, can we do something together for him?’ Then I emailed Mark and told him that there’s a 7-year old kid with brain cancer, he loves video games, he loves Esports, he’s a big sports fan as well, can we hook him up with some Mavericks gear? I ended up getting him a custom jersey made with his number and his name on the back and had Dirk sign it, and sent his entire family T-shirts and caps as well, so they can all match and have some Mavs love in their life and not think about the fact that their 7-year old son has brain cancer.”

Muraco’s gratitude was certainly well received by the Seibel family.

“It was really nice of the Mavericks,” said Prestun’s mom, Tiffany Seibel. “We obviously live in Orlando and we have no ties to Dallas in any way, shape or form, so for Anthony to do that was very nice of him.
If Anthony wanted to, all he had to do was just holler at somebody and say, ‘Hey, send us some shirts.’ Instead, he took the time to get a custom shirt made for Prestun with his favorite number (five) on it, and he got a hold of GameStop.”

Tiffany knows the gifts to her son were well thought-out, including Muraco asking her what was Prestun’s favorite number.

“I still think the favorite thing for me was the jersey,” Tiffany said. “That’s just something you can keep forever – having your own name on a jersey. It says Mavericks on the front and Prestun on the back. To me, that was awesome.”

Asked what he wanted to tell Nowitzki about the autographed jersey, Prestun Seibel said: “Thank you. That’s awesome.”

So “awesome’ that Tiffany said of the personal touch bestowed upon her son by the Mavs, “I would like to personally thank some of these people for putting this together—their time and their effort. They didn’t have to do this. Somebody put the basket together, somebody had to take it to wherever to get it shipped, somebody made the phone call to GameStop and said, ‘Hey, can you help us out here?’ ‘’

John Davidson, the partnership manager at GameStop’s main headquarters in Grapevine, is the person Muraco contacted to assist with fulfilling Prestun Seibel’s wishes. And as Muraco sprung into action, so did Davidson.

“I went to a variety of our merchandisers who handles various accounts and shared Prestun’s story very briefly and said, ‘Hey, do you have any products that we’re able to put together?” Davidson said. “As the results of a number of people being generous, we were able to put together video games, controllers, we got him a backpack, a hat, a pretty wide variety of stuff.”

With that, Davidson shipped the goods to Muraco, who in turn had the entire Mavs and GameStop package wrapped and shipped to Prestun Seibel.

“A big shout out to Anthony and the Mavericks, too, because they’re the ones who brought it to my attention,” Davidson said. “Had it not been for the Mavericks’ generosity I would never even known about this situation and been able to help. So it was a really cool kind of partnership effort to be able to help out Prestun.”

While soaking in the adulation sent in her son’s direction, Tiffany Seibel acknowledged that Prestun Seibel has incurable stage 4 neuroblastomia (brain cancer) and that his disease has changed their lives.

“All of his treatments are in New York City, so Prestun will definitely have his air miles,” Tiffany Seibel said. “We’ve been on a plane about every two months to New York City for the last five years.”

“Prestun relapsed once and his cancer came back in September of 2014, and he had to have brain surgery. And then in September of 2016 he had another brain tumor, so he had his second brain surgery 10 months ago.”

And that’s not all.

“He’ll be monitored for the rest of his life (to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned) because of the fact that there is no cure, so they have to continue to monitor him,” Tiffany Seibel said. “This kid went through chemotherapy, radiation, tumor removal from the abdomen, and then when he relapsed he did chemotherapy again and radiation. This kid’s been through the wringer.”

“But video games are what got Prestun through all of this. When I was stuck in New York for 11 months back in Sept. 14 – and in 2015 I wasn’t home for 11 months – I lived in New York with Prestun, and video games really helped him cope and pass the time.”

Tiffany Seibel recalled the day when doctors first told her of her son’s initial diagnosis.

“Initially when he was diagnosed at age three they told us that we would be lucky to see him make his fourth birthday,” she said. “The hardest thing about living in this life is trying to capture every moment and hold onto it, because I don’t know what’s going to be in five years, I don’t know what’s going to be in six years. Everybody should live life to the fullest. It’s very exhausting to live it every day to the fullest, and I try to take a thousand pictures to capture it, because I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Muraco noted that, in his line of work, it just “made sense” to offer the Seibel’s some friendly assistance.

“If I can do that and make an entire family more positive about what they’re going through, then I’ll do that every time with no hesitation. I think that really reflects the overall perspective of the Dallas Mavericks’ culture and the American culture in general.”

Prestun Seibel’s dad, Matt Seibel, chimed in and thanked all those involved with the Mavs and GameStop who went out of their way to bring some joy to his son. He also wanted to send a “thank you’ to Cuban.

“His dream is to meet Mark Cuban,” Matt Seibel said, referring to Prestun.

At that moment, Matt Seibel corrected himself and laughed and said: “I mean, I would like to meet him. Every time I see him on the (ABC) show (Shark Tank) I think how cool it would be to meet him.”

On that light note by her husband, Tiffany Seibel said: “That’s my husband. He loves the Shark Tank show. My husband owns his own business, so he watches Shark Tank a lot.’’

As far as Prestun Seibel’s battle with brain cancer goes, his mom was inconsolable.

“It’s just sad that cancer puts you in this predicament,” Tiffany Seibel said. “It’s a nasty thing, and I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody.

“It makes it that much worse when it’s a child than an adult. At least an adult got to live out their childhood. I feel like Prestun has been robbed. He’s always in the hospital, he’s sick, he’s missed school. This year he missed 70 days in school.”

And with the next school year set to start soon, everything’s up in the air in the Seibel household.

“Last month we were in New York for 12 days,” Tiffany Seibel said. “And I’m getting ready to go again at the end of August.”

The Seibel’s hope they get a chance to personally thank the Mavs for what they did for their son. And they’re optimistic of doing that when the Mavs make their lone visit to Orlando to play the Magic next season.

“The things that people do for the kindness for Prestun, it means a lot to us,” Tiffany Seibel said. “Because not only are they giving him something, they’re creating memories for him and they’re creating memories for us and bringing a smile to Prestun.”

“So I thank Anthony for everything he’s done. He didn’t have to do that. That was very kind of him.”