Caron Butler Comes Home and Gives Back in a Big Way
The NBA star returned home to Racine Friday to present a check for $200,000 to help fund a variety of programs at area organizations.
Joking after his remarks that he knew people were betting on whether or not he'd cry, Caron Butler wiped the tears from his cheeks and presented a check for $200,000 to his hometown.
Butler was at Washington Park High School, his alma mater, to make the donation which was received by representatives from United Way, the George Bray Center and the Racine Family YMCA. The money will be split among them and could come to more than that firm amount because the Juneteenth Foundation and the Healthcare Network will also get donations. Butler chose the Healthcare Network to honor of his grandmother, Margaret Butler, who recently had a kidney transplant.
"This is going to be a great day," said Dave Mauer, executive director of United Way. "Caron has been part of our initiatives for about 18 months. He's really been great about not just donating, but giving his time, too. That means a lot to him."
Particularly important to Butler is the chance to help programs at the Bray Center overseen by Jameel Ghuari, a mentor to the basketball player since he was a kid running the streets of Racine.
"Jameel, he was one of the people who told me that I can't straddle," he said. "I couldn't watch the drug house and be a professional athlete. I had to pick a life that would have led to jail or death or taking someone's life or live my talent and live a life for good."
College readiness was something Butler mentioned in particular, saying he's worked with kids who have a 3.4 grade point average but lack the core classes needed to qualify for Division I admission.
"Preparing for college is big," he said. "This will help students with FAFSA (Free Application for Financial Student Aid), and the core curriculum they need to prepare for college."
He called Friday one of the biggest and best days of his professional career because he's been so blessed and he has the chance to make a difference.
"I have always dreamed of this success and giving back," Butler continued. "Coming here today, presenting this check means things are coming full circle. But you know, you have to be passionate and put your heart in it because it's not about the money. It's about inspiring people and especially the youth."
Butler said he's grateful to have the opportunity to teach from his life lessons. Despite being raised with people like his mother, grandparents, uncles and aunts who, he said, raised him to have the values that spur him to give back, Butler spent almost a year in jail as a youth.
"That was the turning point for me," he said. "I came out and got involved in the Nike program through the Bray Center and a lot of opportunities opened up for me."
And even though Butler is a professional athlete with financial means, he wants kids to know that being rich has nothing to do with giving back and being successful.
"Be successful no matter the path you choose," he said. "Give back no matter what."
After the press conference, Butler posed with groups of kids before going outside to play games as part of his 3D philosophy: discipline, determination and dedication. More than 260 children and almost 100 volunteers, many of them Park students, filled the gym and field areas at Park for "Get Active with Caron Butler” workshop where they focused on the importance of exercise and healthy lifestyles.
Butler's visit to Racine continues with a Teen Summit Saturday followed by a community block party at 4 pm Dr. John Bryant Community Center, 601 21st Street. The entire community is invited to the block party.