Justin and his wife, Brooke, hope to change the world’s views of people with special needs and amplify a message that everyone should be accepted.
“Basketball is definitely my job and I take it super serious, but it’s not the most important thing in my life,” Jackson said. “Loving people is what I feel God put me on this earth for.”
Jackson becomes the Mavericks first nominee of the season for the October NBA Cares Community Assist Award, presented by Kaiser Permanente. The honor recognizes an NBA player each month who best reflects the passion that the league and its players share for giving back to their communities.
Jackson said he’s aware that Down syndrome is the largest chromosomal disability in the country, yet it is the least funded. He said he wants to do his part to help change that, and the Mavericks remain committed to seeing his mission come to light.
“Our team is full of players who really care about the community,” said Hannah Sherertz, Dallas Mavericks Director of Community Relations. “It’s always hard to nominate just one person each month, but Justin’s commitment to people with special needs really stands out in all of the NBA. This is not just a one-time thing for Justin and Brooke. They really care about these families all season long. It’s extremely admirable.”
The Mavericks hosted the Portland Trail Blazers last Sunday and in honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Justin and Brooke invited 50 adults and families with special needs to serve as special VIP guests. The individuals came from MyPossibliities and Bryan’s House, both organizations aimed at serving and celebrating families with varying needs.
The group had a unique night created just for them as they sat courtside to watch Justin shoot before the game, and the families had the chance to mingle with Brooke. After warmups, Justin took pictures and signed autographs with the families, making sure to introduce himself to each person. The families then received special seats to the game.
Sherertz said October is a month that shines light on various awareness months and initiatives, and sometimes people forget that October is National Down Syndrome Month.
“Justin and Brooke always keep these amazing individuals at the forefront,” she added. “For them, it’s a personal mission.”
Brooke has an aunt with Down syndrome, and Jackson said once they got married in August, 2017, it became a passion of his.
Sunday’s event is the first of many the Jackson plan to host this year. At the start of the season, the couple purchased a group of tickets for the Mavs player block that would go directly to special needs organizations to ensure children and families of all abilities get to enjoy games.
In the upcoming weeks, Justin will be hosting a special needs Jr. NBA Clinic with 50 youth, to spread his love of basketball while giving back to others through the game.
“Justin doesn’t do any of this for recognition or applause,” Sherertz said. “It’s really all about the children for him and we’re really thankful to have someone like him on our team to represent this great community.”
Last season, when he joined the Mavs, Justin hosted a group during the Mavs versus Kings game in May. The Jacksons held a special meet and greet and during the game, Justin wore bright fun colored socks for World Down Syndrome Day.
His teammates also joined in the celebration and arrived at the game in special shirts designed by the Jacksons to recognize and benefit people with Down syndrome.
In addition, shortly before he was traded to the Mavericks, the Jacksons committed to launching a branch of Gigi’s Playhouse, an approximate $500,000 commitment to build resources for those afflicted with Down syndrome. That non-profit will have a resemblance to Gigi’s Playhouse, whose purpose is to change the way the world views Down syndrome while amplifying a message that everyone should be accepted.
Although Justin and Brooke are excited to make Dallas their home base, the couple remains strong supporters of the organization in Sacramento.
It’s been an eventful summer for Justin and outside of his commitment to people with special needs, he’s also a strong proponent of education.
Jackson is one of few NBA players to ever be homeschooled and rise to the professional ranks. This summer he fulfilled a pledge to his family that he would graduate college no matter how his journey NBA turned out. He continued to take online classes during the basketball season earned his sports administration degree from the University of North Carolina.
Making good on his promise to his family already has made this a memorable offseason for Jackson, who freely admits he’s wired a little differently than some NBA players.
He puts his faith and his family ahead of basketball, no matter what.
“Basketball is obviously great, it makes money for my family, it’s fun to play,” Jackson said. “So it’s awesome and I’m going to put everything I have into it. But off the court… there’s some other big things in my life as well.”
Jackson’s graduation came just in time to help the Mavericks kickoff the 2019-‘20 school year with Dade Middle School, a Dallas Independent School.
During the pep rally Justin emphasized the importance of making healthy decisions at school and in life.
“Going to college will help you with life,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to get a job if you have a college degree. I will say college is not necessarily for everyone. And that’s totally OK. But if you decide to go and that’s what you want to do, it’s a great plan to help you go through life.”
Joining the Mavs last February, Justin had no hesitation jumping right into the Dallas community, Sherertz told Mavs.com
“Within his first few weeks with the team, Justin was out planting trees with Dallas Independent School District students with the Trees for Threes program” she added. “He also spent his summer working with youth at Mavs Basketball Academy hoop camps and he represented the team at a Mavs Foundation Court Dedication at Voice of Hope.”
Sherertz said there’s no doubt his dedication to education and children with special needs will have a lasting impact on the NBA and the North Texas area.
“Justin has really set the standard,” Sherertz said. “This is just the beginning.”
Loved meeting everyone and I can’t wait to hang out with y’all beautiful people! pic.twitter.com/FiN1k14Fft
— Justin Jackson (@JJacks_44) October 28, 2019
What Impact Does Down Syndrome Have on Society?
Individuals with Down syndrome are becoming increasingly integrated into society and community organizations, such as school, health care systems, work forces, and social and recreational activities. Individuals with Down syndrome possess varying degrees of cognitive delays, from very mild to severe. Most people with Down syndrome have cognitive delays that are mild to moderate.
Due to advances in medical technology, individuals with Down syndrome are living longer than ever before. In 1910, children with Down syndrome were expected to survive to age nine. With the discovery of antibiotics, the average survival age increased to 19 or 20. Now, with recent advancements in clinical treatment, most particularly corrective heart surgeries, as many as 80% of adults with Down syndrome reach age 60, and many live even longer. More and more Americans are interacting with individuals with Down syndrome, increasing the need for widespread public education and acceptance.
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