One by one, the children’s eyes danced around the new Mavs-inspired computer room as the youth gazed in utter awe and amazement.
Sitting nearby was Dallas Mavericks swingman Nate Hinton, Mavs CEO Cynt Marshall, Mavs Foundation president Katie Edwards and a plethora of other community leaders.
Tuesday afternoon was a celebratory and inspirational day at the Moorland Family YMCA at Oak Cliff after the Mavs Foundation officially opened its 21st reading and learning center in the North Texas community. This one was especially significant because the children and leaders could mix in an educational setting for the first time since the pandemic.
Most of all, it was a reminder that all things really are possible for those who believe.
“I think this is really special because you guys are the future,” Hinton shared with the youth in a heartfelt message during the official ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“After a long day at school, you have the chance to come here and dream dreams and to be inspired and be anything you want to be.”
Perhaps no one knows this better than Hinton.
He grew up attending the YMCA in his hometown of Gastonia, North Carolina. Soon his dazzling basketball skills took over, and he started to travel on the basketball circuit, but Hinton told the children Tuesday that his early days at the Y played a pivotal role in birthing his dreams.
As he grew up, Hinton let his basketball do the talking on the court, but outside the lines, he felt a burning desire to touch the lives of anyone he met. Even at a young age, he understood the importance of servanthood leadership after watching his parents, Pastor Benjamin and Minister Tangela Hinton, minister a flock of a thousand members at Tabernacle Baptist Church for nearly three decades.
As a Black man, he said it’s vital for organizations like the Mavs Foundation to provide equitable resources that give young people a chance to succeed. Hinton believes the new Mavs Reading and Learning Center is another decisive step in the right direction to ignite hope in the lives of young people.
“We have to make sure we’re doing our part in the community,” Hinton said. “We are role models, and we have the chance to inspire these children. I looked out at them today and saw myself in their eyes.”
All 21 of the Mavs Reading and Learning Centers spread across North Texas are uniquely designed to provide learning opportunities for reading and educational programs for kids and provide computer labs and access to technology for youth.
The new center at the Oak Cliff YMCA is decked out with all the trinkets and technology gadgets to spark learning in the hearts of any child. A half dozen new tablets are spread across one table outfitted with tutorial apps, books, and educational games. Renovations to the space include fresh paint, furniture, a new STEAM area in partnership with Pro Player’s Foundation and new books and board games.
The room is also loaded with new podcasting equipment, which was something the children specifically requested.
When you walk into the room, the artwork alone sparks an atmosphere full of hope and learning. Splashed across the room in bright Mavericks blue is the word “INSPIRE” – a bold reminder to the children who will someday grow up to be future scientists, doctors — and podcasters.
“What we are doing today is important for the Dallas Mavericks,” Marshall shared with the audience as she stepped to the podium.
“We know what it takes to be a champion on the court. We have one of those champions with us today, Nate Hinton. But we also know what it takes to be a champion off the court. This is our 21st learning center in the last 25 years in this community. We are trying to make a difference in the lives of children, women, and families. This is what the Mavs Foundation is all about.”
Marshall noted that Tuesday’s official ribbon-cutting ceremony was an accumulation of hard work and dedication by numerous people, including Mavs Foundation board members Jeff and Kim Cuban. The duo made sure to attend the unveiling because they wanted the children to know how much they are loved and admired by people in the community.
“We love the Mavs Foundation, we’ve been able to do this for many years, and we love to engage with the community in ways that really have an impact,” Jeff Cuban said.
“For us, it’s been spiritual in many respects, being able to go out and make sure that we’re able to do so much for the children out there. You can see in the eyes of the children today and how excited they are about the possibilities. They will learn here and then translate that learning into the classroom. That’s the most valuable thing to me. We saw firsthand the excitement and we know where that excitement is going.”
MAVS FOUNDATION CELEBRATES ITS 25TH ANNIVERSARY THIS OCTOBER
The Mavs Foundation was launched in 1996 and is dedicated to building a stronger community by empowering youth, women, and families who need it most through financial support, advocacy, and service. Each year the Mavs Foundation provides thousands of dollars in grants, basketball courts, reading and learning centers and special projects throughout North Texas. Over the last three decades, the foundation has pumped over $6 million into the North Texas community.
This October will mark the 25th anniversary of the Mavs Foundation and Tuesday’s official unveiling was just the start of another momentous year for the organization. Later this month, the Mavs Foundation will dedicate a new basketball court at My Health My Resources of Tarrant County.
“Every individual in our community was touched by many challenges this last year, but many worse than others,” said Edwards, who also is the Mavs’ senior vice president of external affairs.
“The Mavs Foundation and Dallas Mavericks never stopped our work and it became even more important for us to continue and support any way we could. During the year, a lot of it took place virtually, but now we’re so excited to be back in masks and have that direct touch that we’ve been missing for many, many months.”
Hinton said getting back in person with the children was a healing moment for him, too.
In March of 2020, Hinton was playing for the University of Houston and riding with his teammates to the American Athletic Conference Championship tournament when the bus made a sudden halt and headed back to campus. Once there, Hinton hugged his teammates and they all went their separate ways. He returned to North Carolina and worked out in his father’s church gym. He knew he was a borderline draft pick in the NBA, so he was ready to put in hard work with no idea what would happen next.
That’s when his faith kicked in.
Hinton believed he had a chance to make a mark in the NBA, and he spent last summer working on his ball-handling and other things he couldn’t showcase in college. The 2020 NBA draft came and went with Hinton, never hearing his name called, but soon the Dallas Mavs reached out and his life accelerated in an instant. He moved to Dallas after signing a two-way contract, staying with the team and gaining valuable time and experience with the squad.
When asked to recap his past year, Hinton noted that it’s been a whirlwind with the playoffs being his favorite memory of the year.
Most importantly, he honored his commitment to serve the community off the court and gave back to the game, surprising youth at several Mavs Academy camps across DFW this summer. Mavs community leaders said Hinton jumped at the chance to attend Tuesday’s event before he leaves for NBA Summer League next week.
All of this is just one more chapter of what’s already been a storybook year for Hinton.
“It was a lonely path to this. But through everything that happened, the ups and downs, I had to stay focused and let God handle the rest. That’s the thing I’m taking with me. I’m having to start my way from the bottom and work my way up and learn and be part of something special.”
The year 2021 proved instrumental in Hinton’s life after he appeared in 21 games with the Mavs and was also on hand to dedicate the Mavs Foundation’s 21st learning center.
For the youth and Hinton alike, Tuesday was just the start of what promises to be a future filled with hope, imagination and inspiration.
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 49 safe Learn & Play spaces throughout the North Texas community, including 28 basketball courts and 21 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.
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