GARLAND – Becoming an integral part of Jonathan’s Place and all that it stands for was a natural fit for Dallas Mavericks guard Yogi Ferrell.
Jonathan’s Place is a foster care and adoption program that provides a safe place, a loving home, and specialized services to children who have been abandoned, neglected or abused. Given that Ferrell’s mother was neglected and grew up in foster care, quiet naturally, her son would connect with such a dynamic organization.
“Growing up was rough for her and she came out on top and has been a great parent, especially giving support for me and my entire basketball career,” Ferrell said of his mother. “I’ve seen how she’s become such a strong woman, and now she’s giving back in being a foster parent. So I’ve kind of seen that and seen how she’s making all these kids so proud and making them happy, so I just want to do the same thing.”
In partnership with Jonathan’s Place and with support from the Mavs, owner Mark Cuban and the Ferrell Family Foundation, Ferrell recently hosted Foster Care Saturday. It was a fun-filled day with basketball games and arts and crafts as the primary activities.
As she glanced around the room and saw kids of all ages thoroughly enjoying themselves, Ferrell’s mom could relate to what the children were experiencing. She encountered some of those same experiences growing up, and when she finally left foster care she wound up attending college and is now an accomplished doctor.
“I was basically a child of neglect at a pretty young age as a teenager,” Dr. Lydia Ferrell said. “I was fortunate enough to have some family placement, but regardless, I was in foster care until I aged out at 18. I was also fortunate enough to have a state help me to go to college.”
“That’s why even aging out of foster care, you want to be able to support these kids and give them a chance to go through college. It’s really, really important in order to be successful later on in life. I ended up getting my medical degree from (Indiana University), which is a great accomplishment. But it also shows these kids that they can also make it farther despite their startup in life.”
Alicia Frye, the chief executive officer of Jonathan’s Place, was very appreciative that Yogi Ferrell found time in his schedule to engage in some games with the children at her facilities and also share stories about the realities of his life.
“We are thrilled to have Yogi out here today, not only because it brings awareness to Jonathan’s Place,” Frye said. “But also it shows that there are so many people who really want to support us in this cause.”
Cuban was also thrilled Ferrell joined forces with Jonathan’s Place – an organization very dear to the Mavs’ owner.
“My wife is on the board here, so the Mavs Foundation and my family are big supporters of Jonathan’s Place,” Cuban said. “When Yogi picked it as the organization that really fits with him for his foundation, I was excited. We know the work that they do, we know how committed they are to kids, and really adults now too, of all ages.”
“So many kids – it’s tragic, it’s heartbreaking – get thrown away and Jonathan’s Place is here to help pick them up whether they’re eight months or 18 years old. It’s a beautiful facility and you can just tell for everything these kids have gone through they’re just so full of joy and it’s a fun place to come to.”
Donnie Nelson, the Mavs’ president of basketball operations, was also on hand to support Ferrell.
“This is what we do,” Nelson said. “There’s no higher calling than what you’re looking at right here.”
“At the end of the day when they put you in the pine box you can’t take jewelry or green paper with you. So passing on this kind of hope for our young men and women is what it’s all about.”
Nelson looked around and spotted Ferrell playing with some kids and instantly knew that Jonathan’s Place and Ferrell will forever have a unique connection.
“Yogi, his heart is big as all outdoors,” Nelson said. “He’s very, very rare, He’s never forgotten where he’s come from.”
Ferrell certainly valued having Cuban and Nelson stepping up and getting behind his cause.
“It’s something great, especially when I have Mark and Donnie backing up my organization,” he said. “It just shows how big of a heart they have.”
“I know Mark always wants to give back, so it was great that we could get him here. I know he’s a busy man, but I’m glad that him and Donnie can come out and help me in the launching of my foundation.”
Dr. Ferrell, who herself has cared for approximately 20 foster care children, isn’t at all surprised that her son would form a bond with the kids at Jonathan’s Place.
“Even before I started fostering, he just always loved the kids,” Dr. Ferrell said. “He’s a very giving person and I think that that’s important. Even as a teammate, you want a teammate that’s a giver. It kind of plays into his position of being a guard for the Dallas Mavericks.”
As Ferrell eagerly played a game of Knockout with the children, he readily unveiled the passion he has for the less fortunate and for those who have been disenfranchised.
“For me personally I always feel like giving back to the kids,” Ferrell said. “I think that’s the first and foremost thing, because they’re the next generation.”
“They are who are going to power our country and move the community into a positive direction, so for me I just want to give back to those kids that didn’t have the same life that I had, the same support system growing up. So that’s all I’m trying to do for them is show support for them in that anything that they want to be in life they can be it with the right support system.”
As the day unfolded, Frye was overwhelmed with the support they received from Ferrell and the Mavs, saying: “We’re thrilled and the kids are thrilled to have that type of support. We can’t thank the Mavs enough for being out here and supporting Jonathan’s Place.”