Zone In On Education
this one, you had to be there.
Kurt Thomas, the New York Knicks 6-9 enforcer–a player famous
for his take-no-prisoner tactics, a tough guy whose mere glare
strikes panic in the hearts of most NBA opponents–lay down on
the carpet. He did that so that a bunch of considerably closer-to-the-floor
10 and 11 year-olds could play with the hair on his head.
near-unbelievable sighting occurred at Brooklyn’s Beginning with
Children Charter School where Thomas, along with fellow Knick
forward Larry Robinson, played Pictionary with 30 tremendously
thrilled fifth graders as part of a “Knicks Reading Zone” event.
do I do this?” Thomas said. “Because I have children too. Because
I know how important it is to stay in school and to get a good
education. And, most importantly, because it is important for
us as celebrities to set the right example and give back to the
The players do not exactly live up to the popular stereotype of
the self-involved multi-millionaire ballplayer. But, when it comes
to the sometimes elusive concept of “corporate responsibility”
the Knicks are one big business that actually means business.
talk the talk and we walk the walk,” said the Director of Community
Relations Ayala Donchin. “We feel that using these players’ power
as role models for the betterment of society is extremely important.
This is our philosophy, our mission that comes all the way from
the top. Yes, from (Madison Square Garden President) Mr. (James)
is why all our events, like The Reading Zone, are interactive,
goal-oriented, and up-close-and-personal,” she added. “If I have
a choice between sending a player to a huge benefit dinner with
a lot of attendant publicity, or an intimate school event like
this with just a few people from the press, we’ll go to the school
every time. Because it’s much more beneficial and important to
The “Knicks Reading Zone” was created as part of the NBA’s “Read
To Achieve” program that instructed each of its 29 teams to come
up with its own educational initiative. The Zones are voluntary
independent reading centers located in five New York City elementary
schools, one in each borough. The Knicks donated a core library
of 500 books to each Zone school, and each month sends 50 copies
of a new “featured book” – one that’s also read by a Knicks player
on a special Zone Phone (1-800-NYK-DUNK, what else?) to the schools.
And then, of course, there are the in-person visits by the players,
the ultimate “use of the power of celebrity to promote literacy,”
according to Ms. Donchin.
As it turned out, the Pictionary game–a well known Knick-like,
ultra-competitive thriller –ended in a tie. And then the real
thrills came as the two gentle giants stayed around another hour
to hang out with the kids, sign autographs and to answer any and
Questions included “Are the fouls real?” and the all-time favorite
“Do you know Michael Jordan?” But there was also “What school
did you go to?” And “Did you graduate?”
travel constantly and need time for our own families as well,”
Robinson, who has three school-age children himself, said while
looking out at the sea of shining little faces. “But you know
what? I wouldn’t give this up for anything.”
Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel:
(212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email: email@example.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of
the publisher. © 2001.