DALLAS – Harrison Barnes often talks about the time when he was completely in awe when former National Basketball Association guard B.J. Armstrong paid a visit to the Boys & Girls Club in Iowa which Barnes attended.
Armstrong meticulously signed some autographs, took some pictures and, quite frankly, left an indelible impression on Barnes and his fellow Boys & Girls Club comrades that will last a lifetime.
Fast forward approximately 18 years later, and Barnes now finds himself as the famous NBA player who’s leaving indelible impressions that will last a lifetime. That’s what occurred recently when the Dallas Mavericks’ forward dedicated a brand new basketball court at the Oak Cliff Boys & Girls Club.
This was one of those teachable pay-it-forward moments by Barnes, who recalls how that appearance by Armstrong changed his perspective on life.
“I always remember the people that were older than me, were accomplished and always gave back, and that set with me,” Barnes said. “It was, ‘Ok, if I ever make it, or if I ever have a chance to have the means to give back, then I could be able to do that.’ “
“And I think that’s how it’s come full circle – those people raised their hands up and helped me get to where I am, and now I can do the same thing for the next generation.”
Besides the Court Dedication ceremony where Barnes’ good deeds were amplified, the Oak Cliff Boys & Girls Club was transformed into what was sufficiently described as “Harrison’s Workshop.” It became a place where the kids displayed their arts and crafts, baking and decorating skills.
In addition, the major prize(s) – other than the new basketball court – was that all 150 kids received a Christmas present, with Barnes footing the bill. And it was a present that the kids themselves put on their wish-list.
Following the wishes of Barnes, Cherri Rowe and three other Boys & Girls Club executives went shopping for the gifts.
“We went to Target and we shopped about three hours,” said Rowe, the vice-president of programs for the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Dallas. “But honestly it was so much fun, the time went by so fast and we were excited to just get these gifts for the kids.”
“We had the kids make a wish-list and we were able to get every single item that was on their wish-list.”
All 11-year old Kiera Green wanted was a mini-hockey machine. And she got one.
“This is a great Christmas for me,” Green said. “I like that I can play it against people and play it with my family.”
“I want to say thank you for choosing this club and we had a great time. (My friends) said they love their presents.”
Ci’Andria Jefferson, the director of the Oak Cliff Boys & Girls Club, was very appreciative of the kindness Barnes displayed during this holiday season.
“This has been an amazing experience for our entire club,” Jefferson said. “For the kids to actually have someone care enough about them and know that they’re good kids and that they’re hard workers and that their environment doesn’t dictate who they are and what they can become, this has just been overwhelmingly exciting.”
One room at the Boys & Girls Club was packed with toys, and it was a surreal moment for Barnes.
“Just to be able to see the excitement on these kids’ faces, to come back and to give these guys a gym, I know how important it was for me to have a gym growing up, especially at the Boys and Girls Club,” Barnes said. “Hopefully this will be a great stepping stone for them, not only just to see a nice court to go out and play on, but to see that somebody cares about them.”
Santa Claus cares about kids, too, and was on hand to assist Barnes.
“It’s always a joy to come out and put smiles on kids’ face and watch them come and grab gifts,” said Santa Claus, who grew up in the West Dallas Boys & Girls Club. “On a rating from 1 to 10, it’s an 11 for me.”
“Some of these kids come from a rough past, and just to be able to put a smile on their face for just five seconds, that’s all I need right there.”
Barnes’ wife, Brittany Barnes, also attended the event and offered some encouraging words.
“Any opportunity to give back through the holidays is always a blessing,” Brittany Barnes said. “And since we’ve been so blessed with the ability to give back to the community, give back to kids, and give back to places like the Boys and Girls Club, that means a lot to Harrison.”
“We’re happy to be able to provide an assortment of things for the kids.”
An assortment of things and memories that will last a lifetime.
“I’m overwhelmed with excitement, overwhelmed with joy, overwhelmed with thanks,” Jefferson said. “This is a little community that needs to see this type of love.”
“It blows my mind and I really honestly cannot thank God enough for (Harrison and Brittany Barnes) and the hearts that they have. I’m going to cry. This has been a blessing for me, the club and the families.”