NBA Star Dwight Howard Shines On and Off the Court
Dwight Howard has long been recognized for his incredible talent as a player in the NBA. However, it is his actions off the basketball court that make him a true star. His commitment to making a difference lead him to create the D12 Foundation, which seeks to strategically and effectively help close critical gaps in three key areas of focus: early childhood education and literacy, facilitating the education of girls in East Africa, and empowering youth and developing leadership. Dwight champions girls’ education in Tanzania, providing safe housing and school essentials for young women pursuing their education. Additionally, he adds his voice to the challenges facing youth through engagement in mentorship, including at the Boys and Girls Club bearing his name in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Dwight has been recognized with the NBA Community Assist Award and is a five-time winner of the DeVos Community Enrichment Award. He received the Daily Point of Light Award at the 2018 Service Unites conference, honoring his commitment to service. We spoke with him to find out where his continuous drive to give back comes from.
What role did volunteering and service play in your childhood?
Giving back was always just part of my family, school and church life. For me, it started at home. We did not have very much to give, but everyone can give something, and a lot of time that means more than money. Sometimes people just need to know that another person cares.
How did you become passionate about early childhood education and literacy?
Early childhood education and literacy is important because if a child cannot read they are not going to be able to succeed in school. Kids spend so much time with technology – reading a book is a special thing you can do with a child and really spend time together.
You could support service through other charities, yet you are so hands on in your work. What inspires you to be so directly involved?
I believe that giving time is more important than giving money, especially when it comes to kids. Spending time with kids, listening and talking with them, letting them know you care, that is something that is missing in the lives of a lot of kids these days. It is never a drain on me to hang out with kids on a court or in a classroom.
What have you learned through your experiences with your D12 Foundation?
There are lots of good causes — and I give time to causes important to friends and family — but I try to stick to the challenges I've carefully chosen. Just like in basketball, you need to focus on the position you're playing and the challenge in front of you.
What has been the most rewarding part of your service?
Since I have been in the league now for 14 years, I hear from adults who were kids at schools I visited early on or attended camps. It is a great thing to hear how things I have done in the past have helped people out in some way.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
It goes back to time. You don’t need to be an athlete or an artist to volunteer to mentor a kid or read at a school or help out in your community. When there is a need, we can all help by using whatever talents we have to bring to a situation. I also feel like I always get more than I give and I think that people overall will be happier if they share their life with someone else who needs help.
What future service, partnerships or programs are you most excited about?
We're focused on some big ideas — maybe not the most traditional things you'd expect from a basketball player. I've always been a person who set big goals and I have made a lot of them.
I may be the only man who has launched a sanitary pad facility in Africa — but doing that combined the ability to help keep girls in school, and help provide women with new opportunities so that they can become mentors to other women and girls.
What advice would you give to others looking for ways to make a difference?
Giving back is very personal and if you care about something, you’ll find you really enjoy giving. Find what your talent is to share with others and give back as much as you can.
Want to make a difference in your community? Visit www.allforgood.org to find local opportunities to get involved.