DALLAS – in his heart of hearts, Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell knew he had to do something that was very impactful.
Cancer had altered Powell’s life for good, disrupted his way of living and changed everything in his mind, body and soul. That all occurred on Sept. 13, 2012 when Powell’s mother – Jacqueline Weir – abruptly died of breast cancer at the Melrose-Wakefield Hospital in Melrose, MA, at the age of 53.
It was an obvious gut-punching set of circumstances for Powell, whose mother never told him she was sick because she didn’t want him to be worried about her. Powell, at the time, had just started his junior season at Stanford.
Powell said: “I don’t think she realized the severity of the situation that she was in.”
In the six-plus years that have gone by, Powell hosted A Night Of Hope function in Dallas on Oct. 18, where cancer survivors could come and mingle and share their stories. It was also a fund-raiser to help raise monies towards helping find a cure for this insidious disease.
“It was a great opportunity to spread awareness and bring people together,” Powell was. “Whether it was to raise funds or support one another, at the end of the day we need to do all we can do every day of the year to try and help people in situations where they need help.
“Obviously having experienced it, this was a big situation because it’s a little closer to me and I try to do what I can to make a difference.”
The Mavs have shown their support for Powell in many ways. As the Mavs will host Breast Health Awareness night when they entertain the Utah Jazz on Sunday at American Airlines Center, they chose Powell to address the crowd prior to the 6 p.m. CT tipoff.
That moment and all that it entails isn’t lost on Powell.
“It means a lot,” the five-year veteran said. “Obviously for me personally, but as a player in this league and a member of this franchise I’m proud to say I’m a Mavericks because we do things like this and we’re in the community so much.
“A lot of things that I’ve been able to learn from (proprietor Mark) Cuban and from coach (Rick Carlisle) and from (forward) Dirk (Nowitzki) throughout the years that I’ve been here are about just how important it is to support the community visa how much they’re supportive of us. I’m proud to just say I’m a Maverick for that reason most of all.”
The A Night Of Hope event was a private function. Powell wanted it that way.
And he told his story of the day his mom died, and what she meant to him and how her death has impacted his life.
“After hearing him speak about it, it was a riveting set of circumstances and I could see why he was so vigilante about getting this started and I can see why there’s been so much support in such a very short period of time,” Carlisle said. “A lot of these gatherings they do live auctions on-sight.
“But this one there was not an on-sight live auction, but there’s an online auction that has some amazing things on it.”
The auction has already raised over $500,000.
“It’s still ongoing,” Powell said. “The goal was to fund it for three years, so that’s what we’ve done.
“We’re still trying to raise some more funds. We met our goals, so we’ll have three years of the program set up at UT-Southwestern, which is amazing. People were very generous. Some people donated twice, which was surprising but was great.”
Carlisle is always touched when his players reach out beyond the boundaries of the basketball court and help those in the communities where they make their living.
“It’s a fund that Dwight has started to raise money for people in what I would call distressed family cancer situations,” Carlisle said. “It’s a gut-wrenching thing for someone to talk about. When he spoke about it you could understand his passion for it.
“He lost his mom to cancer. It was a very quick situation. This fund is going to offer people the opportunity to cope better, to deal with situations, to provide resources, and to get through difficult transitions when these kinds of things happen.”
For Powell, it was the unique time to get his message across. He wanted those families who are stricken by cancer to know that they survive and thrive in their every day life.
“There were some survivors of various cancers (at the function), but it was mostly a fund raiser,” Powell said. “So we had people there that had donated a lot of money to help out, donated their time and people that donated things to the auction items.
“We had about 120 or so show up two nights later (for the Mavs’ home opener against Minnesota), and half of those were patients and their families. And the other half were the staff of folks who work in the hospital that will be working with the funds going forward. So we wanted to make sure we met them and gave them a night to kind of start off in fun, and also give the families a chance to understand what’s available and to have a night out with their kids.”
Powell remembers when he was mourning, how the officials at Stanford arranged for every member of the basketball team to attend his mom’s funeral. And how that show of gratitude enabled him to cope with the difficult task at hand.
“It was big,” Powell said. “At that point they were my family. We had been together with most of those guys since I got to the university and we were very close.
“It was a difficult time, so to have them there was great. I think it was good for me moving forward because that day I kind of had to come to a lot of difficult realizations as far as how my life was going to play out for the next however many years I have left, and to have those guys to kind of support me in that moment was important to me. “
Just like A Night Of Hope is so important to Powell.