The McLeod family could hardly believe the news. For over a year, they dealt with hardship after hardship and now there was a little ray of sunlight shining on the family.
“When I told them the Mavs Foundation and Whataburger invited them to this event, the mother, Cynthia McLeod, started crying,” said Mita Havlick, who is the Executive Director of the Dallas Education Foundation.
The event was a year-end celebration for the #KrisStops Campaign and the McLeod family – along with their eight children ranging in age from elementary school to college – received a VIP invitation to attend a party at the American Airlines Center practice facility.
Whataburger provided the delicious food, while the Mavs ManiAACs brought the laughter and entertainment to conclude another successful #KrisStops Campaign that will end up helping thousands of children across North Texas.
Earlier in the season, Mavs forward/center Kristaps Porzingis once again teamed up with Whataburger and the Mavs Foundation to fight childhood hunger.
Porzingis personally donated $500 per block this season, with Whataburger donating an additional $100, totaling $600 per block donated to the Mavs Foundation.
Whataburger’s contribution is part of its Whataburger Feeding Student Success program, geared toward helping students from pre-K to college achieve their dreams and goals while removing barriers to success.
The Mavs Foundation provided $10,000 grants to fund five local organizations dedicated to fighting childhood hunger in North Texas. This year’s recipients included CitySquare, Dallas Education Foundation, New Day Arlington, Metrocrest Services and Soup Mobile.
“We are so excited to be able to provide $50,000 to five different organizations in North Texas to fight childhood hunger,” said Hannah Sherertz, who serves as Director of the Mavs Foundation. “Tonight the families and organizations that were here for the celebration got a very exclusive behind-the-scenes experience with the Mavericks. It really was a celebration for all the good work the organizations are doing, and it was just a moment of cheer for all the families that we serve.”
The McLeod family was selected by Dallas Education Foundation to serve as the representatives for the organization and Dallas ISD this year.
“They have had some COVID challenges, in fact, the two older boys in college had to return home to help support the family,” Havlick said. “They’re wonderful and their kids are so polite and they’re talented and they’re great kids.”
Havlick shared that hunger is a serious issue in North Texas, even more than people often realize. The summer months are especially daunting when children are at home and food insecurity is a real threat to our young people. This is why the Mavericks, along with Porzingis and Whataburger, are dedicated to providing relief to various organizations that combat food insecurity.
“The Mavs Foundation is so thankful for the contributions that Whataburger and Porzingis make for this campaign each year,” Sherertz said. “We’ve been fortunate to donate over $200,000 over the past few years to organizations in North Texas that are fighting childhood hunger.”
Dallas ISD is the 14th largest school district in the nation and second largest in Texas with over 152,000 children. Dallas Education Foundation says that 86% of students in the district are economically disadvantaged.
“What is always surprising to me is that we have so many families in our community that do go hungry,” Havlick said. “There is so much food insecurity in our city and oftentimes we don’t see it because we marginalize a population. We don’t want to see them.
“No one chooses to go hungry. It’s not a choice, it’s unfortunately a circumstance. And so whatever the greater community can do to help support any family that goes hungry is so incredibly appreciative. Even if they’re not in school, all kids deserve to eat.”
The Dallas Education Foundation exists to serve all 150,000-plus Dallas ISD students through the lens of equity, access and inclusion. With a mission to educate all students to success, Dallas ISD sees continual gains in student achievement and prepares students to be college and career-ready and productive, contributing members of the community.
Havlick noted that the donation from Porzingis, the Mavs Foundation and Whataburger arrived at the perfect time because a combination of the pandemic and job losses has created an especially trying time in our community.
She said it was really special to attend the check donation with the McLeod family to see the excitement and joy in the eyes of the family.
“This is amazing,” Havlick said. “This is an incredible opportunity for them, and I know they are especially thankful.”
The Mavericks and Whataburger invited this year’s recipients to a special behind-the-scenes celebration event, and everyone got a tour of the Mavericks locker room, shot hoops on the practice court goals, played games with the Mavs ManiAACs and Whataburger also served fan-favorite menu items during the event.
Spencer McLeod was especially thrilled to attend the event because he said basketball plays a special role in his family’s life. He said his family hoops together every single day in the Texas heat and to shoot on the practice court of the Dallas Mavericks is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I liked being able to see Boban’s shoes,” McLeod said, with a giant grin across his face. I put my foot next to his shoe and it’s so big! I liked being able to see everything tonight, it was nice. My favorite part of the day was going to the Mavericks gym. I played one-on-one against my brothers and my mom. My mom is better than me at basketball. She was killing me down in the post. She was a power forward and is a little bit stronger than me. We all play together as a family every day in the sun.”
Porzingis wasn’t able to attend the event in person because he returned to his home country of Latvia for the off-season. Instead, he sent in a special video to make sure the organizations and families knew they were loved and appreciated.
“I just want to tell everyone that I’m extremely happy and thankful for the support my #KrisStops Campaign has received,” Porzingis said. “I want to thank all the amazing organizations for their hard work during this global pandemic. I want to encourage everyone to keep up the good work and I promise it won’t go unnoticed. A huge, huge thank you to Whataburger, sincerely, from the bottom of my heart for supporting me and supporting the cause to fight hunger. Let’s keep fighting.”
ABOUT THE MAVS FOUNDATION: Over the past 25 years, the Mavs Foundation has provided grant funding totaling more than $6 million dollars to nonprofit organizations serving women, children and families in need. In addition to grants, the Mavs Foundation has built 48 safe Learn & Play spaces throughout the North Texas community, including 28 basketball courts and 20 Reading & Learning Centers. These spaces are designed to encourage healthy living and provide a safe place for children and residents, as well as expand learning opportunities and access to technology to support youth education programs, teen and adults job-skill training and other critical programs. Learn more at MavsFoundation.com.
ABOUT WHATABURGER: Whataburger has focused on its fresh, made-to-order burgers and friendly customer service since 1950 when Harmon Dobson opened the first Whataburger as a small roadside burger stand in Corpus Christi, Texas. Today, the company is headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, with more than 850 locations across its 14-state footprint, and sales of more than $2.8 billion annually. Whataburger has 50,000 Family Members (employees) and more than 60 million customers who like to customize their Whataburgers just the way they like it. Visit whataburger.com or pivot-you.com for more information. To apply for Whataburger jobs now, visit whataburger.com/careers.