October 8, 2019

Indiana Children Could Benefit From All-Star Legacy Program

Children from the Shepherd Community Center in Indianapolis play basketball with Indiana Pacers mascot Boomer. - Erica Irish/WFYI

Children from the Shepherd Community Center in Indianapolis play basketball with Indiana Pacers mascot Boomer.

Erica Irish/WFYI

A group planning the 2021 NBA All-Star Game in Indianapolis announced Tuesday it will fund a million-dollar initiative to promote healthy bodies and healthy minds across the state.

Starting Oct. 8, nonprofits across the state can apply to receive grants up to $50,000 to create new health and wellness facilities, like playgrounds and basketball courts, and to fund education initiatives in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) or reading.

The committee plans to award money to 21 projects before the NBA All-Star Game comes to Indianapolis in February 2021. Organizers will identify 21 seniors planning to graduate in 2021 who will lead the local projects, called “Rising Stars,” and award them scholarships.

Pacers Sports & Entertainment President and COO, Rick Fuson said the initiative is one of the ways Indiana intends to go above and beyond for the all-star game. Indiana hasn’t hosted the event since 1985.

“We promised the league in our bid this is going to be the best all-star ever,” Fuson said. “This is the start of proving to them, and proving to the rest of the basketball world, that in fact Indiana and Indianapolis will put on the best all-star ever.”

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, who welcomed the committee and several dozen children from Indianapolis’ Shepherd Community Center to his backyard court to celebrate the announcement over a friendly game of basketball, said the initiative will take a one-night event and amplify it to do good around the state.

“This is going to be the gift that keeps on giving,” Holcomb said. “And not just the physical investments we’re making in courts all over the state of Indiana, but the investments we’re making in people.”

Indiana’s own all-star, former Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings, says the legacy initiative takes the one-night all-star event and amplifies it to do good for children around the state.

“While we will celebrate the games here in Indianapolis, our goal is to be able to reach all the way,” Catchings said.

Nonprofits have until the end of the year to apply for the grants. Grantees will be announced after the NBA All-Star 2020 game in Chicago.

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