Lakers drive more than just a ball down the court
Earlier this month, I was disheartened to hear a bit of the banter on morning talk radio criticizing the high cost of the "exhibition" game tickets to the Lakers games and their high-powered "Hollywood sports machine."
First, if you could have seen the faces of the kids and adults alike at the games Oct. 9, you'd know that these folks were definitely enjoying every minute of their opportunity to see -- first hand -- some of the finest athletes in our nation in action.
More important, there were hundreds of youngsters in Hawaii whose lives were affected by the Lakers' two-week visit in a very different way -- they were given the gift of reading.
Very quietly, two years ago, Lakers' owner Dr. Jerry Buss made a special commitment to the state of Hawaii. In addition to the entertainment he brought to the many Lakers fans in Hawaii, Buss and the Lakers Youth Foundation initiated efforts to increase literacy among our young people. The Lakers Read to Achieve Program reached into several schools providing youngsters with opportunities and incentives to pump up their reading skills.
At the Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii, the Lakers' director of community relations, Eugenia Chow, helped to establish two Lakers Reading Rooms. The first one was unveiled two years ago at our Spalding Clubhouse. The second one, was unveiled two weeks ago in Ewa Beach at our Hale Pono Club house, providing all in attendance another special moment when "The Watercolor Cat" author Shelly Mecum and artist Peggy Chun joined with the Laker Girls and players, Derrick Fisher, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom and Brian Cook, in a very special reading with the youngsters from Kaimiloa Elementary School.
In addition, the Laker Girls made an appearance at Barnes & Noble Ala Moana to promote a book drive rally and, at their exhibition games at Stan Sheriff, the Lakers made memorabilia available for the Boys & Girls Club for raffle drawings -- all in support of the new Lakers Reading Rooms at our Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii!
The Lakers have left town for another two years. But they have left behind an opportunity to continue to build a community of competent and passionate readers among our youth. I wish more was "bantered" about these types of efforts on the part of the Lakers to help the communities they touch through their presence. We look forward to welcoming back the wonderful Lakers organization to Hawaii in two years. In the meantime, our Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii Lakers Reading Rooms will be filled with young people spending their time reading and expanding their horizons!
David Nakada is executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii.