The iStar Charity Foundation – Hoops For Kids

By Daniel Dodaro and John Michael Dodaro

Think of a time when you knew that someone was in need and you didn’t know how to help. Did you think about helping them by playing basketball!  You could do both by playing basketball and looking up the iStar Charity Foundation.

This special foundation helps many people in need involving children and basketball. Some of the Knicks and Harlem Wizards players volunteer to come to this event every year at Madison Square Garden. These players play basketball with different sponsors and kids’ organizations to raise money.  Everyone comes to have fun, meet some of the players and visiting stars and at the same contribute to iStar.

My brother John and I were excited to be part of such a worthy cause. This year the charities they were raising money for included Baby Buggy, Human Rights first, Robin Hood, Garden of Dreams and Teach for America.  The Knicks and the Harlem Wizards have been supporting the iStar Charity Foundation for seven years. Companies such as Morgan Stanley and the Sugarman Foundation donated funds to the organizations and participated in the event.

The energy at the Madison Square Garden iStar charity event was charged. There were many different kid teams of all ages roaring to get to play with the Knicks and Harlem Wizards to raise money for this event.  Besides the excitement of playing basketball, the kids were entertained by the dancing group, the Fab 5 and the rap group, Kid Rocke.

The Knicks players that we interviewed were very kind and had a soft spot for raising money for kids. My brother and I asked the Knicks Legend, Charles Smith, “Why did your team pick these four charities out of many others?”

Smith answered, “I still feel part of the Garden family and I play here. The Garden of Dreams is one of my charities that I like to work with. Any time they do something in collaboration with any other charitiy, I like to get involved and support them.”   

When asked how these organizations affected his life, he immediately answered, “I know they had an impact on a lot of organizations and a lot of kids. When you look at what these children’s charities are doing; just the name alone, the Garden of Dreams, explains it. It helps kids know they have a frame to meet a certain player or travel to a certain place. They make dreams come true.” 

John then asked Charles Smith, “What is the greatest part of being a professional basketball player?”  

Smith answered, “The greatest part of being a professional basketball player is you are considered the best at what you do in the world. If someone was an investment banker they would want to be one of the top three or four hundred investment bankers. You become an elite class where you can say you are the best.”

We also interviewed another Knicks legend, Anthony Mason. We asked him at what age did you begin to play basketball.

“I was a little different. Baseball and football were my first sports. I didn’t start playing basketball until my junior year in high school. I pretty much was one of the lucky ones.”         

Our next question was, “How did you transition from football and baseball to basketball?”  

Mason answered, “Part of it was where I was living.  I moved back to Jersey and when I was young, football and baseball were the big sports. Then I moved to Queens and I said let’s play some baseball and football. They said that was weird.  So basketball became the thing to try.”

I then asked Mason, “Do you get to choose what charities you sponsor or do the managers?”

Mason replied, “Actually, it’s pretty much both. I love to look out for kids as far as education, and helping them accomplish their dreams. At times of crisis they know that we are there.”                          

We then wanted to know which charity he stands for the most.

Mason responded, “I would say the Garden of Dreams because it facilitates everything within the Garden. I feel that we (the players) have accomplished our dreams, so it’s our job to try to help kids accomplish their dreams.” 

 I wondered if any of these types of organizations helped Mason growing up.

Mason then said, “The Boys Club and stuff like that kept me out of trouble. That’s why I’m have a real fascination about helping kids. When my mother was at work I would have gotten into a lot of trouble doing other things. So the Boys Cub was real good to me.” 

I then wanted to know how it feels to represent these charities.

”Mason said, “Any time you can help kids you can see the bright smile and dreams come true. We have been so blessed as professional athletes. It is always good to give back!  The National Boys Club helped keep me off the streets. In essence, because of them I became a professional basket ball player.”

My brother and I also interviewed a newer Knicks Player, Danilo Gallinari. We asked, “What is the greatest part of being a professional basketball player?”

He answered, “I think it was the best thing that ever happened to me. “I started playing basketball when I was five years old.”  

The last Knicks player we interviewed was Wilson Chandler. We asked him some questions too! We wanted to know how these charity organizations affected his life.” 

“It helped me communicate with the younger people.  Not many people get to become a professional basketball player,” he said.

We wanted to know what the greatest part of being a professional basketball player was.

He responded, “I really like playing all the time; that’s the greatest part of basketball!  I was around twelve years old when I began to play.”

He also told me how he felt about representing these charities.

He explained, “It feels good to be in this position that we are in, because when I was young I didn’t have anyone come around and help me.”

One of the kids I spoke with was a 10 year old boy named Joshua who went to school at PS 142 in New York.  This was the first time he did this.

He said “I like this event and I am happy to be here. I started playing basketball when I was nine.”

He said he was excited, and happy to be raising money for charity and to play with his icon, Gallinari. He then went out on the court and played with his team and the Knicks players. Each group raised money every time they scored a basket.      

We also spoke to 13 year old Jack Stallsmen from Trinity School in N.Y.C. He was very excited to be there and stated his top player was LeBron James.

He stated, “This is my third time at this event. I am anxious to shoot some hoops with the players and raise some money.”

We also interviewed Jack, 11, from New York City, who has never done this sort of thing before. He said he is inspired by Carmello Anthony. When Jack’s team was called to play, he rushed on to the court with his teammates and gave it his all. 

We asked Tojo from the Harlem Wizards how do these organizations affect his life.

He replied, “It gave him a chance to travel all over the world. To do what I loved to do the most and that is basketball, and I have a lot of fun.” 

We asked him if he performs at different charities throughout the year, and he answered, “We go to many charities throughout the year and work a lot with Special Olympics and Children’s Miracle Network and many other charities.” 

We then inquired what was the greatest part of being a professional basketball player.

Tojo answered,”Well, for me especially playing for the Wizards and bringing smiles to the faces of the kids.  It’s great to make a living doing what you love to do so much. Most charities have special meanings, especially the ones we do with Special Olympics, diabetes, and cancer. We also do a lot of work with United Way.  My family has been affected by cancer and diabetes.  It’s a great feeling having a chance to give back. “

There were stars there lending their support to the event. got to interview Hugh Jackman, Vivica Fox, and Emme!

Hugh Jackman was one of the stars that came out to lend his support for iStar. This was his first iStar Charity Foundation game. If you have seen the X-Men movies, he plays Wolverine and recently was seen in the movie, Australia, and many other films.  He was a real gentleman and he was very friendly and easy to speak to. He came to the event with his family and participated in rating the players.  As a Laker’s fan, Mr. Jackman  told us in his opinion that the guard was the most important position in basketball but he feels that Stephon Marbury is the best player on the Knicks.

He stated, “As an ambassador for the World Mission, I want to help disadvantaged kids all over the  world.  I also want all kids to have the same chances in life.”

Vivica Fox and Hugh Jackman both rated the players and the kids at the event. Vivica Fox also lent her vivacious personality to this event. She was lots of fun to talk to with lots of energy and opinions.  She played basketball in 1982 in the City Girl Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana. Vivica is a big basketball fan. Her top player on the Knicks is Jared Jeffries. Ms. Fox refers to him as .J.J.  

Vivaca stated  that in her opinion, “The center is the most important position on a basketball team. The center sets up the entire game for rebounds, sets up for defense and gets the ball back to offense.”

Model, Emme, was also there lending her support with her daughter Tobey.  She played very vigorously before she came to speak to us. Tobey told us that she loves the Harlem Wizards.

 “I think the coach is the most important part of any team and I think the guard is the most important player on the team,” Emme said.

In all, the charity raised over $350,000. This was accumulated with half-court shots, free throws and games between the players, the kids’ teams and the celebrities. It was a great experience to be involved in. We even got to shoot basketballs!  This event teaches us all to give our best for our fellow man and to give it your best in all you do.

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