Inspiration Report

31915296404_afb8e15c44_bWhen a sports interview got political, Laura Ingraham suggested that LeBron James should “just shut up and dribble.” Ingraham has told celebrities to stay out of politics before, and she is one of the most vocal in a growing movement that believes the political opinions of singers, actresses and sports stars are given undue weight despite their lack of expertise. The backlash on social media was swift and vicious, but Michele Campbell, the executive director of the LeBron James Family Foundation, decided to consider what the world would look like if LeBron had followed Ingraham’s advice. “Without LeBron James outside of basketball…we would have had children who dropped out of school,” Campbell said. “We have 1,200 kids who are behind in school, but because of LeBron James they are catching up and believe they belong on a college campus and believe they can be educated. They believe they can be anything. If it was just basketball for [James], what a waste that would be.”

James is responsible for the creation of the I Promise program that serves 1,200 at-risk Akron students between 3rd and 9th grade. There is also an I Promise, Too program that helps parents get their GED. I Promise, Too has nearly 40 parents currently enrolled. The I Promise program also has $41 million earmarked for full-ride scholarships for Akron public school students who choose to attend the University of Akron.

In addition to scholarships, the I Promise program is opening its own school. There are expected to be 120 third graders and 120 fourth graders in attendance. The school is slated to be open to students from grades one through eight by 2022.

James also enlists the help of older student mentors to work with the younger children in his I Promise program. These students, called the 330 Ambassadors, have also been giving back to their communities. The Ambassadors traveled from Akon to Los Angeles for All-Star Weekend where they spent time doing community service. “For them to be in the communities giving back to Los Angeles and make a difference, it means everything,” James said. “I want them to experience this with me. My foundation is a part of my journey.”

LeBron James began his charity with a bike-a-thon in 2005. The goal was to get kids more involved in school. As James grew in fame and wealth, he realized that he could make an even bigger difference, though he did not imagine quiet how large the foundation would grow to become. “Did I ever envision it would get to this point? No, I didn’t,” James said. “But we never had a ceiling. We don’t have a roof now. There’s too many kids, too many places that need our help. We’re not going to be able to hit them all. WE know that. It’s impossible. But we’re going to hit as many as we can. We’re going to continue to do innovative things. That’s what it’s about.”

James has made it clear he does not intend to stay purely on the basketball court, instead, he intends to continue his charitable work, even when his career ends. “I knew early on that [the foundation] was going to be bigger than me,” he said. “My foundation, they’re going to carry this on longer than I can. That’s why I do what I do.”

Given the success his foundation has already had, one can only hope it continues to keep up the good work even when James eventually leaves the dribbling behind.

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