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Xavier Magazine | September 2, 2014

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By Skip Tate

In 1999, the National Basketball Association awarded Brian Grant with its J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in recognition of his outstanding community service and charitable work. Some of his efforts include:

• The family of Dash Thomas contacted Grant, asking if he could visit their 7-year-old son, who had brain cancer. They lived in Salem, Oregon, about an hour’s drive from Portland. Grant was so taken by the boy he wrote “Dash” on his shoes before each game and drove back and forth to visit. They would shoot baskets and play video games. The hour-long drives and visits went on for eight months before the cancer won.

J-Walter-kennedy-citizenship-award-nba-role-model-hero• In Sacramento, Grant was listening to his car radio when a story came on about a foster child who was murdered. The little girl had no family and no one to pay for her funeral expenses. A fund was set up to accept donations. Grant called. He paid for the entire thing.

• After games, Grant would often drive to the Children’s Hospital in Portland and go in and play with the kids. He told no one. “You see those families in there, and they have this look of, ‘Help me I don’t know what to do for my child.’ That’s who probably got the most out of it because they got to see their kid smile and laugh. It was just a moment of peace, a moment they got to forget their child is dying. That’s why I loved it too.”

• Grant met the Reyes family, whose daughter, Jovita, had leukemia. He spearheaded a drive to get the family a $15,000 wheelchair van so she wouldn’t be stuck in the house, and he began helping  their 16-year-old son, Ramon. Grant began picking him up, taking him places, organizing paintball outings, entertaining him at his house four days a week.

• Each Thanksgiving, Grant and his wife Gina provided dinners for families in Mothers Against Gang Violence.

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• Each Christmas, they would adopt underprivileged families, buying them presents.

• He created a scholastic program and gave Blazer tickets to children with good school attendance.

• He would buy food and deliver it to the local Ronald McDonald House, for which he served as the regional spokesperson.

• When the Blazers wanted to host a bone marrow drive for a 16-year-old boy named Woody, Grant organized the effort. It resulted in hundreds of people showing up and getting placed on the national donor registry—including one who matched Woody.

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