Understanding the In’s and Out’s of NBA Cares

Sorry for the hiatus- I’ve spent the past few months traveling and unfortunately my writing has fallen on the back burner. However, with the NBA All Star Game having just been played last night, I wanted to expand this blog from being more than just best practices to one that focuses on what teams, leagues, and charitable organizations are doing in the space. Thus, it only makes sense to continue with a basketball centric feel and talk about NBA Cares.

NBA Cares is the league’s global community outreach initiative that addresses important social issues throughout the world such as education, youth and family development, and health and wellness. The first thing to note here is that it is a global initiative- why you may ask? This is because the NBA is the most global sport out of the Big 4. The NBA impacts people worldwide and so its mission makes sure to help out in areas where it has fans. Since October 2005 when NBA Cares launched, the league and teams have raised over $230 million for charity, provided more than 2.8 million hours of hands-on service, and built more than 860 places where kids and families can live, learn or play in communities around the world.

As a league initiative, there are full-time staff that work on the NBA’s social responsibility and outreach programs. These people work on leveraging the popularity of the sport and its assets to provide support to league social responsibility initiatives.There are multiple programs under the NBA Cares “umbrella” to help fulfill each initiative. The following five programs are the one’s the NBA highlights among all of them:

  1. NBA/WNBA Fit
    -This program helps to encourage a healthy living style and physical activity for children and families at a young age.
  1. NBA Green
    -In today’s world, the NBA is taking steps to make all of its processes from the league and team level more environmentally friendly. This includes internal and external processes as well as its product in-arena.
  1. NBA Cares Hoops for Troops
    -The NBA is actively involved in supporting active and retired service members. Current and former military are honored during games and families are given tickets to games and teams are able to do meet & greets with Wounded Warriors.
  1. Community Assist
    -The league presents this award to one player who best demonstrates a desire to give back off the court and make his community a better place.
  1. Basketball without Borders
    -This initiative is a global basketball development program to allow youth to train under NBA coaches and learn from the best players.

One of the NBA’s programs that hold a special place in my heart is Hoops for St. Jude, a season-long fundraising program benefitting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. For one week, league players, coaches, and basketball fans help raise awareness and funds for St. Jude. Fans can do their part by attending a game in their local community that week, helping spread the word via social media, or making a donation to the hospital. Throughout the week, coaches wear Hoops for St. Jude lapel pin to show their support. In addition, NBA stars donate autographed items to help raise funds. This is all complemented by media support through TNT and NBA TV to help shed light through broadcast. This demonstrates the power we all have when we come together as fans, players, and teams to shed light on an issue.

Sports are a powerful platform for social issues to come to light. NBA players and athletes of all type have a voice that can be amplified due to the popularity of sports in our society. As a result, the dollars raised increased incrementally and the impact is felt across the world. No longer is this just a “feel good story;” with the power of the media and social avenues, we have the ability to play our role just like the NBA does with its NBA Cares initiatives.

As always, if you have any ideas or comments, please feel free to leave them here.

Eric Shainock is an Assistant Account Executive at Intersport. Feel free to reach out to him on Twitter: ericshainock.


1. stjude.org/hoops
2. nbacares.com

Colin Thompson Plays with Heart and Passion in the Community

This is a story that you may not have heard of. Colin Thompson isn’t a professional athlete… in fact, when he befriended John Shulby, Colin was still in middle school. John is a huge football fan, who happens to have been born with Down syndrome. However, his heart and passion for football is unmatched. The two met when they were in the eighth grade, when Colin was assigned to be John’s buddy at a track meet.

As Thompson transferred to Archbishop Wood, a different high school, the two remained close. The entire Shulby family followed Colin’s football career and attended his games. Colin’s high school started a program called Athletes Helping Athletes, and Thompson took an active role by helping John become an honorary captain of the football team.

In an interview with Jamie Newberg and ESPN.com, Kathy Shulby said, “John goes on the field and participates in the coin toss with the captains. They play golf together. It’s a friendship that we never expected, and it’s one of the best things to ever happen to John. It’s not just the friendship and acceptance with Colin that’s so great, but also with his teammates. It’s truly been an unbelievable and wonderful experience.” John Shulby has continued to grow with the team, as he has been promoted to an Assistant Coach role.

This relationship is just as important to Colin, as he said that John is an inspiration to the entire football team. The two are more than just friends- they are family. Steve Devlin, the Archbishop Wood coach, encourages his players to be active in the community. Devlin is big on giving back, saying “I want our players to realize just how fortunate they are, and I want them all to do some big things out there. They all need to make an impact, and you can see the happiness they bring to other people. It’s life changing.”

The story doesn’t end here, as Shulby attended the Under Armour All-America game in 2012 in support of Colin. Serving as the ball boy during practice and the game, many of the players naturally gravitated towards him due to his uplifting spirit. According to Intersport, a sports marketing agency that owns and operates the Under Armour All-American game, Shulby will be joining them again in December for the 2015 game.

In light of all the recent issues in football, this is a heartwarming story that shows how impactful it can be to give one’s time. You don’t need to be a famous athlete to make a positive difference in someone’s life. To watch the video of Coach Devlin surprising Shulby with his honorary ball boy jersey in front of his family, friends, and teammates, please watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zn_8vO_-SBA&feature=youtu.be

As always, if you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to leave them here, or reach out to me on Twitter: @ericshainock or @CRSports2.



Creating a Personal Foundation vs. Partnering with Existing Ones

Athletes are privileged individuals who can play their respective sports at the highest level in the world. These players love what they do and are generously compensated for their talents both on and off the court. The minimum salaries in the four major professional leagues are:

            -NHL: $525,000

            -NBA: $507,336

            -NFL: $420,000

            -MLB: $500,000

Most of society can only dream of making this kind of money over a lifetime let alone make it in one year of a contract. As a result, we hold players to a higher standard because they have the power, access, and money to better our communities both for the teams and the fans. It is common to ask players what they are doing to give back to those less fortunate or how they are helping out in their local community. This begs the question of, “Is it better to create a personal foundation or to partner with an existing one?”

For example, how many foundations in the NBA focus on raising money to find a cure for cancer? Clearly there is a need for cancer research and the dollars associated with it; however, who runs these foundations? It’s possible that a player’s agent, friend, or family member is in charge of a personal foundation rather than an expert in the field. As a result, it is possible that there is a clutter of personal foundations that are created to help improve the community, yet it may not be as successful as originally intended.

On the other hand, there are organizations that currently exist that have the same goals as these personal foundations: to find a cure for cancer, to improve a city’s educational system, to help find a cure for AIDS. These charitable organizations hire experts in the non-profit field and have the resources available for a player to step in and be a spokesperson or a national figurehead. This will allow a player to be as involved on a personal level as he or she wishes, yet it lets the experts run the fundraising efforts. A player can use his likeness, access, and brand to improve a fundraising event or an organization, which is critical for many charities. One example is the MACC Fund, which has relationships with professional players to help with its events and fundraising. It brings exposure to the organization as a whole and is a true partnership with the player so he is fully rewarded with the interactions and experiences with the children. I will touch on it more at a later date, but these players allow the MACC Fund to use its so that both sides are successful in achieving their goals.

I pose this more as a question and ongoing conversation because there are examples of both types of models working. A future post will take a deeper dive into the Justin J. Watt Foundation and how it transformed an organization out of his kitchen into one raising hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to improve after school programming in Houston and Pewaukee. Having seen firsthand how knowledgeable and passionate this foundation is, there was never a doubt that they wouldn’t be successful. Thus, does it mean that the critical factor in a successful foundation or organization is having a knowledgeable and dedicated full-time staff to run it? I’ll leave this open to debate and would welcome any conversation or thoughts on this topic.

As always, feel free to comment, leave an idea or thought, either here or on Twitter: @ericshainock.



How Jason Dufner, Auburn Athletics, and the State of Alabama Came Together to Fight Hunger

Auburn University Athletics, the state of Alabama, and pro golfer and Auburn alumnus Jason Dufner and his wife Amanda are teaming up to help fight hunger in their community. At a time where children are moldable and are continuing to grow, the proper nutrients and diet is key to the development of children’s bodies. Poor nutrition can result in a weaker immune system, lower academic achievement, lower IQ, and a shorter attention span. As a result, child hunger is one of the most pressing social issues that society faces nationally and internationally.

Alabama has one of the highest rates of child hunger in the country. Nearly 28% of children are food insecure in Alabama and almost 20% are in Lee County. Auburn University Athletic Director Jay Jacobs said, “These children in our community… they have a lot of challenges in front of them. Some of them don’t have both parents in the home… some of them have mental challenges… some of them have socioeconomic challenges… but the one challenges [sic] that is unacceptable… is to go hungry in the state of Alabama… Lee County ever night.” The different partners here will all come together to help fight to end child hunger. The End Child Hunger in Alabama campaign has added almost three hundred new summer feeding sites and in Lee County it has helped spur a 36% growth in meals served said Lt. Governer Kay Ivey.

It’s yet to be seen how Auburn Athletics will specifically contribute to this initiative. One avenue may be to have players volunteer their time at shelters and food banks. Another idea may be to have players use their likeness to help raise money to fight child hunger. Jacobs has said though that Auburn Athletics will be hands on to help raise awareness and to help fundraise.

Jason Dufner and his wife have helped fight hunger in the community through the Jason Dufner Community Foundation, the couple’s foundation. Amanda Dufner has been increasingly involved with Blessings in a Backpack, which has become a program that the Jason Dufner Charitable Foundation officially endorses now. Blessings in a Backpack provides elementary children who are on a federal meal program, with a backpack to take home for 38 weekends during the school year. Some of the food includes granola bars, ready-to-eat foods, juice boxes, and smaller meals like mac and cheese. $100 can feed one child on the weekend throughout the school year, which can make all the difference in that child’s educational success. Through this program and other funds raised through the foundation, the Dufner’s have been able to support 800 kids during the school year.

Blessings in a Backpack is supported by the following sport foundations:

1. Jason Dufner Charitable Foundation
2. The Davis Love Foundation
3. The Jim & Tabitha Furyk Foundation
4. PGA Tour Wives Association
5. The Dale Jr. Foundation
6. The Donald Driver Foundation

With the help of these athlete’s foundations, as well as national brands and other organizations, Blessings in a Backpack is able to fight hunger across the nation and make a difference in many children’s lives.

This is another example of a professional athlete teaming up with an organization to help fight a social issue close to home. With this new partnership to fight childhood hunger between Auburn Athletics, Jason Dufner, and the state of Alabama, the results will only be positive as two large sport brands can use its likeness and athletic success to raise awareness and dollars for something so close to home. Dufner said it best, as he is committed to something larger than golf. He believes that the fortunate should assist the less fortunate in times of need and distress, which is the motivation for the creation of his foundation.

blessings in a backpack

As always, if you have any comments, ideas for upcoming posts, or questions, feel free to leave them here or reach out to me on Twitter, @ericshainock.






Blue Tuesdays: Russell Wilson and his work with Seattle’s Children’s Hospital

This story holds a special place in my heart. As the quarterback during my senior year at UW-Madison, Russell Wilson was as great of a person off-the-field as he was on-the-field. He led our team to the Big Ten Championship and to the Rose Bowl that year. He recently took the Seattle Seahawks to their first NFL Championship in just his second year in the National Football League. He tied an NFL record for most touchdown passes as a rookie and has surpassed everyone’s expectations except his own. Wilson is the first to arrive each morning and one of the last to leave. He studies film and always strives to get better. This is the type of player every franchise wants to lead its team. However, his work off the field is as impressive as his playing career to this point.

Russell Wilson was a new draft pick by the Seahawks in 2012 and he wanted to become a part of the fabric. Most players would spent all their time partying and learning the playbook, but Wilson wanted to quickly get involved and he thought Seattle Children’s Hospital would be a great place. The hospital was unsure what to make of this request- it had dealt with athletes before and it was met without great success. Past players would not visit regularly or would only spend a few minutes for photos and then leave. Wilson, however, was different. Every Tuesday, Russell Wilson would show up at the hospital and interact with the kids. He started on a trial basis, but he kept asking to see more kids and visit more rooms… including the hardest cases the hospital had. Wilson spends a few minutes with each child and hears their story, prays with them, and just tries to make them smile.

Wilson said, “I think that to be able to try to find a way to change people’s lives and to be there for them and give them a boost is really important to me.” This demonstrates the true character of Wilson. He is using his likeness and fame as a way to give back. These kids are fighting every day for survival, yet Tuesday gives a moment of hope that they may meet one of their idols. For Wilson, this was a way to cope with the death of his father. He and his dad were extremely close and Wilson looked up to him for advice and as a role model. These trips have become known as “Blue Tuesdays” and after each visit, Wilson posts them on his social media pages. In the era when players post questionable pictures, Wilson is the exception.

Too often money is thought of as the silver bullet. If a player gives enough money, it is equivalent to giving of his time. Of course the money helps and goes towards research and funding of programs. However, the time that Wilson spends with these children each week is something that money cannot buy. He builds genuine relationships with the kids and tries to take their focus off of their current ailment. Doug Taliaferro, the equipment coordinator at Children’s Hospital, escorts Wilson each Tuesday around the hospital. He said, “He’s just an all-around good guy. Kids know Russell is real, sincere and honest. He is truly one of a kind.”

As a fan of the Wisconsin Badgers, I am happy and excited to give back to their athletic annual fund in part because of the work that players such as Wilson are currently doing. I have a great sense of pride to be associated, albeit very indirectly, with someone as selfless as Wilson. This type of giving should be stressed at the college and pro level, because it helps fans build a stronger affinity with players and teams. This will result in higher sales, a greater loyalty to the brand, and a stronger passion for the team outside of only gamedays.

As always, feel free to leave any comments or ideas on future posts. You can also find me on Twitter: @ericshainock.






Ohio University’s Race for a Reason: What’s Your Reason?

Before I lived in Athens, I thought it was just a college town that would be fun to visit for a few weekends…. but it became so much more than that. It became a home away from home and my graduate program became a group of people who became my second family. We were told in December of our first year that we would help organize and execute an event named Race for a Reason.

This event holds a special place in my heart because it found my passion for fundraising and Community Relations. Thus, this post is dedicated to Lilly Straley, a young girl living in Athens, Ohio with Cystic Fibrosis, and to Sean Squires, a young boy living in New Jersey who also has Cystic Fibrosis.

Race for a Reason is the largest charity event in Southeast Ohio. It’s a day-long event that consists of a Mud Run, Triathlon, 5K Run, and 3K Run/Walk. The event in its current format has existed for four years and it came out of an idea from a Sports Administration alumnus. He challenged the current students to do more for charity and give back to the community. The alumnus had a friend whose family was affected by Cystic Fibrosis (CF), which is how our program became involved in fundraising for CF. Race for a Reason serves a dual purpose: it gives current students more experience in the non-profit world and it allows them to plan and operate a large scale event. In 2013, a local family in Athens reached out to our program and asked that we help fundraise for her team as well because her 6-year-old daughter has Cystic Fibrosis as well.

This past year, the event raised over $115,000 dollars with more than 100 student organizations involved in the fundraising and participation of the event. In total there were 1029 participants not including walk-ups:

▪   219 Triathlon participants

▪   321 Mud Run participants

▪   238 5K participants

▪   148 3K participants

▪   128 Volunteers

The sports administration on-campus students raised over $20,000 this past year and in conjunction with the online program, the entire program raised around $40,000. A portion of this money went directly to fund research for a cure for Cystic Fibrosis, so it definitely hit home for all of the students in Athens. Each student organization could pick its reason for fundraising- its own organization or a worthy cause or non-profit that could use the money. As a result, all of the $115,000 went directly to helping different organizations across the country. Think about that for a second- a four-year-old event run by students is able to use endurance sports as a way to positively impact dozens of organizations. This is a perfect example of how sports can be a tool to make a difference. It doesn’t matter how old or experienced a person is- he or she can truly make that difference.

I spoke with Eric Mayer, the Co-Director of Fundraising, Recruitment, and Operations and Carey Goodman, Director of Race for a Reason for last year’s race. He said that the biggest opportunity with an eye towards the future is with the undergraduate population. At a university of 22,000 students, there is a huge opportunity to have a greater student involvement. With just over 1,000 participants, there can be huge growth both from the current students and surrounding citizens of Athens. In addition, Race for a Reason added a 3K Run/Walk in 2014 as a partnership with AMVETS. In the future, there may be opportunities for additional partners with the other facets of the event. Eric said it best- “It was special to see our fundraising total eclipse $100,000 and make a national impact, in part because of the personal involvement of myself and the students on campus.”

As I mentioned earlier, this event staff turns over its leadership each year, yet it continues to grow in total fundraising dollars and participants. With an idea and a dedicated group of people to see the execution of an event, we can come together to bring about positive change. To create a seamless transition from year to year, Race for a Reason works with a representative from Athletes in Action. To further lower the learning curve, the graduate program might try to have a faculty advisor to keep a seasoned voice at the top. With such high turnover in key student leaders, it is important to try and pass on the knowledge from year to year. The program does a good job by using recap books for each event to learn from past successes and mistakes. In addition, with the hope that undergraduate students become more involved in the event, it might make sense to include undergrad representatives to the leadership of Race for a Reason.

That’s it for this week! Next week I will focus on the special relationship between Adreian Payne and Lacey Holsworth and write from a holistic view of the bonds forged between athletes and children in the community.

finish line

mud run


Interview with Eric Mayer and Carey Goodman

Badgers Give Back at UW-Madison

At first, Badgers Give Back was an organized platform to help respond to player requests and get the student-athletes into the community and collect the hours. There is a Community Relations Coordinator as well as a staff of interns that help execute each event. In the past two years, the program has greatly expanded and taken on new horizons. One new event was “Shave to Save” an event where 8 football players had their heads shaved by cancer patients in the hope of gain awareness for the patients battling childhood cancer at the American Family Children’s Hospital.

In 2013-2014, the student-athletes completed over 8100 hours of community service at 280 events, which was a 200% increase from 2012-2013. The football and golf teams had the most hours completed per person (calculated by the total number of community service hours divided by the number of roster spots per team). The players embraced the service and looked forward each week to visiting the hospitals and the patients that they built relationships with. Today, Badgers Give Back is a multi-pronged platform that is looking to grow by collaborating with campus partners. Badgers Give Back achieves its goals in two ways:

1. Appearance Requests (a local non-profit will have student-athletes at its events)
2. UW Programs through Badgers Give Back

The first program is called Booking it with Bucky, which is in collaboration with the UW School of Education. The education students help tailor curriculum with the student-athletes to teach to elementary students in the Madison area. There are 10 core standards for students to enter the 5th grade, and the student-athletes are committed to leading groups and helping middle school kids reach those core standards.

The second program is called Wisc Fit, which was started this past year in conjunction with the UW School of Public Health. The mission of this program is to bridge the gap between athletics and campus to create a larger impact with all groups. Kayla has worked with a childhood obesity researcher who has been a huge help to tailor this program towards kid and help reduce childhood obesity in the community.

The third prong of this platform is Flat Bucky, a partnership between the UW School of Education and the athletic department. Flat Bucky was created to be a mentorship program between schools and the student-athlete, where every student-athlete carries the Flat Bucky that its classroom created for him/her. Each classroom will create an Instagram account to follow where Flat Bucky and the athlete goes. The goal is to try and motivate kids in the moment and help create memories between Madison’s youth and its role models.

In general, I see departments becoming formalized units within athletic departments. At the moment, there are few schools that use it as a tool to bridge the gap between campus and athletics. There is a simple way to keep track of volunteer hours and have the student-athletes impact the community in a positive way. This will allow their legacies to remain in the community once an athlete finishes school and continues to show the positive influence that partnerships between colleges on campus and athletics can have on the community.
Next week, I will write about an event close to my heart: Race for a Reason. This is a student-run event that Ohio University’s Sport Administration program coordinates each year. As always, feel free to comment and leave suggestions!






Interview with Kayla Gross- Community Relations Coordinator with UW-Badgers