11 months ago

In LOVE with Humanity

A tribute to some of humanity’s greatest Heroes; 153 men & women who have chosen, via their brave words &/or noble deeds, to reflect the deeper Greatness residing within us all

Hero #094: Dikembe

Hero #094: Dikembe Mutombo Born June of 1966, Dikembe Mutombo is a Congolese American ex-NBA professional basketball player. Now retired from professional sports, he has now become even more well-known for his humanitarian work … As a 7 ft 2 in, 260-pound center, Dikembe was one of the greatest shot blockers and defensive players of all time, winning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award a recordtying four times. He was also an eight-time All-Star in his 18 NBA seasons … Before turning pro, Mutombo had attended Georgetown University on a USAID scholarship, originally intending to become a doctor. After seeing him on campus, however, John Thompson (then the Georgetown men's basketball coach) recruited Dikembe to play basketball. Though he was raised multilingual (speaking French, Spanish, Portuguese, Tshiluba, Swahili, Lingala and two other Central African dialects), Mutombo spoke almost no English when he arrived at Georgetown. And yet he was a quick study, and -- after persevering in Georgetown's ESL program -- he eventually became proficient in the English language, and graduated in 1991 with bachelor's degrees in both linguistics and diplomacy. In 1997, while playing and starring for the Atlanta Hawks, Dikembe started the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation -- an organization designed to help improve living conditions in his native Democratic Republic of Congo. One of his first projects (and the one of which he is to this day most proud) was the completion of the 300-bed Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital (named for his mother, who died of a stroke in 1997) on the outskirts of his hometown, the Congolese capital of Kinshasa. Despite a series of construction delays, bureaucratic snafus and difficulties in finding sponsorship (Dikembe ended up funding over half of the $29 million project himself), the hospital was completed in August of 2006, and has been serving the Congolese citizenry ever since … On April 13, 2011, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health awarded Dikembe Mutombo the Goodermote Humanitarian Award ―for his efforts to reduce polio globally as well as his work improving the health of neglected and under-served populations in the Democratic Republic of Congo‖ … In 2012, the Mutombo Foundation, in partnership with Mutombo's alma mater, Georgetown University, began a new initiative, which now aims to provide care for visually impaired children from low-income families in the Washington, D.C. area … Dikembe is also a longtime supporter of Special Olympics and is currently a member of the Special Olympics International Board of Directors, as well as one of the organization's Global Ambassadors. ―After spending more than 17 years playing for the NBA, in the summertime I always came back to community service ... God put us here to prepare this place for the next generation. That's our job. Raising children and helping the community, that's preparing for the next generation.‖ ~ Dikembe Mutombo 110

Hero #095: Richard Nares Richard Nares lost his son in 2000 to a battle with cancer, and along the way met dozens of families with children fighting a similar fight – families that didn‘t have the means &/or the support to regularly get their children to treatment centers; single moms forced to take leave from jobs without pay, kids having to ride the bus alone to their chemotherapy appointments, siblings left home alone while their brothers or sisters went to the hospital. Heartbroken by the broken U.S. healthcare system, Nares decided to do something about it; originally heading to Rady Children‘s Hospital and giving in-need kids and their families rides on his spare time … Soon thereafter – when demand for his services began to outstrip his ability to meet them – he started the Emilio Nares Foundation, a multi-driver, non-profit organization that provides more than 2500 rides a year for low-income families with children battling cancer. In addition to the free rides, Nares' nonprofit provides support services and assistance to its clientele, many of whom do not speak English. It also provides translation services and an on-site resource center at Rady to help those in need navigate the often-complex insurance systems, pressing legal issues, and complicated medical diagnoses. ―It's extremely tough these days, not just emotionally, but financially as well. Sometimes, both parents have to either leave their job or cut back severely. Some of them don't have an extra $10 to pay for cafeteria food … I didn‘t even know what a foundation was. But I saw there was a need and I wanted to address that need.‖ ~ Richard Nares 111