Sports fans know Dwight Howard as Superman for donning a red cape at the 2008 Slam Dunk Contest and winning with superhuman dunks. He became PbS’ superhero last year by inspiring youths in facilities to be their best. Last month, PbS got to say thanks.
In 2016 Dwight Howard spent a day at each of two PbS facilities, Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center (COJC) and the Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center, amongst several he visited while traveling and playing basketball. He wanted to share his story to motivate and help youths facing challenges. And, he wanted to visit facilities that were helping youths. The D12 Foundation found PbS on the internet in an article announcing COJC was a finalist in the Barbara Allen-Hagen Award competition for best exemplifying PbS’ commitment to treat all youths as one of our own and called.
According to staff and youths lucky enough to be present, the visits were life-changing, inspiring, thrilling, awesome and really cool. On a rare day off during the season, Dwight took his time to talk to all youths, small groups of youths and individuals while visiting. He shared the powerful message central to the D12 Foundation’s efforts to promote education, literacy and youth leadership: get educated, give back to the community, stay away from drug use and trouble, be respectful, stand up to peer pressure and bullying.
Then, when he called about help visiting in Philadelphia, he agreed to heighten the recognition of the PbS Kids Got Talent Contest by serving as a judge. PbS received 85 entries, a fifty percent increase from the previous year, the first of the contest. Two of the entries were youths shooting hoops. Dwight sent all the finalists an autographed certificate.
Finally on Feb. 27, 2017 on behalf of PbS, I got to say thank you. He was in Boston. It was an hour or so before the opening tip of the game between his Atlanta Hawks and the Boston Celtics. He had just warmed up for about 30 minutes with precise shots around the three-point area. He took his earbuds out and walked over to the sideline to Laura Chauvin of Sustainable Philanthropy Partners and link to Dwight and the D12 Foundation. She introduced me and PbS. He nodded in recognition and lowered the top half of his 6 foot, 11-inch frame to shake my hand and hear my thanks. He was kind, sincere and compassionate. Dwight said he really enjoyed the visits, spending time and talking directly with the youths. He wants them to know they can do something positive with their lives and work hard to be who they want to be. He said he would continue his efforts to inspire hope and care about youths facing challenges. Then he posed for pictures with a wide smile.
In the very early years of when the Superman cartoons were adapted to the screen, Superman’s father told him to use his powers “in the interests of truth, tolerance and justice.” Superman Dwight Howard uses those powers and more to help youths be their best.
This article was originally published on the CJCA blog.