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A couple of Sacramento Kings players visited a West Sacramento youth gathering site the other day, and while it wasn’t a typical day at the office for Francisco Garcia and Beno Udrih, it was, in some respects, much more rewarding.
Garcia and Udrih were at the Collings West Sacramento Teen Center on Tuesday to announce a special gift to the kids at the center and youngsters like them across the area. Between the two of them, they have purchased 50 lower-level season tickets to give away to children considered at-risk in our community. For each of them, it was just another in a long line of gifts they’ve given the area that they hope will keep on giving.
The setting was perfect for the generous donation of time and tickets. Being held at the Collings Teen Center was just what the doctor ordered as, according to the center, more than a third of the city’s teenagers live in poverty. And, according to Don Bosley, the center’s executive director, teens are the perfect audience to appreciate such a donation.
“It is the at-risk population that comes here – these aren’t the kids that go to Kings games,” Bosley said. “These aren’t the kids that really have a hope or a dream of going to a Kings game.”
And then the other shoe dropped, but in a grand way. Garcia and Udrih also brought each child who was at the center a free voucher that, in turn, will get them into the home opener.
That, Bosley said, was a game-changer.
“To be able to see players in the flesh,” Bosley continued, “and to have those players invite them to become part of the home opener – it’s really hard to calculate the meaningfulness of that to these kids. You can see them. Their eyes are still going, ‘Wait, you mean we get to go to a game?’ It’s not the world in which they normally get to operate so it’s very, very exciting.”
And as for what it meant for ’Cisco, as Garcia is affectionately called, to be able to give back to the community with his “La Casa de Garcia” organization? Well, those thoughts were easy to coax from the 2009 Oscar Robertson Triple-Double Award winner – an award given out to the King whose charitable work is above and beyond.
“Just help(ing) kids, it’s all about the kids – most of all the kids that really need it,” Garcia said. “They just need help to stay off the streets. Nowadays, there are a lot of kids that are just hanging in the streets – they really don’t know their role. I’m just a guy that plays basketball and comes to talk to them because I thought it might help.”
Unlike a lot of professional athletes these days, Garcia said he has no problem carrying the role model label.
“I have a daughter myself, and she’s 3 right now,” Garcia said. “I try and conduct myself certain ways so she will always be proud of me as well as the kids in the streets.”
Udrih also has founded an organization that will just-as-assuredly change people’s lives. His is called the “One-B Club” and benefits individuals who have experienced tragedy in their lives.
“It supports kids that have (had) a tragedy in the family,” said the six-year veteran from Slovenia. “I’m just trying to donate and give back to the community so that some kids can go to the game and have fun.”
Udrih said he has enjoyed his time in Sacramento and feels that the fans have treated him well. Even though he’s a professional ball player, he still understands the reality of life for the average person these days.
“I don’t like some of what is going on in the world right now,” Udrih said. “With all the families having tragedies and the economy is really bad, I’m just trying to reach out and help.”
And help it does. The Kings players can always been seen around town doing their part. But Tuesday was about having fun – the kids weren’t the only ones having a great time.
A couple of members of the Kings popular break dancing team were also on-hand. There was a dance contest that featured not only a group of the kids on stage, but another of the kids’ mentors who brought the house down with laughter. Besides standing on the edge of the stage contributing to some of the comedy, both Kings in attendance also helped make the occasion festive by tossing out T-shirts, balls and posters, which they were happy to autograph as the event wound down.
The day was not lost on Steven Royster, who approached Garcia afterward and thanked him for coming. He couldn’t wipe the smile of off his face.
“I did it because not a lot of players do this,” Royster said. “I thought it would be a good thing to thank them because they are taking time out of their day to come see us and talk to us and sign stuff.”
It seems that the center, whose motto is “Embrace, Engage and Empower,” has had a positive effect on the youngsters.
Bosley said he didn’t let the moment at the Collings Teen Center get lost on him, and he was sure it wouldn’t be lost on the kids in attendance.
“Ultimately, we exist as a teen center to help kids feel valued and loved and embraced,” he said as the day concluded. “A move like this extends value to them. The Kings helped us take an ongoing step toward our goal today in valuing kids. I really appreciate it – it’s pretty personal to us.”
Notes: For more information on the Collings Teen Center, call 916-375-0681 or check it out online at collingsteencenter.org. For more on the Kings in the community, visit nba.com/kings.
Photos by Mark Needham