Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Alonzo Mourning Stops By...

Alonzo Mourning just retired from a successful career as a professional basketball player. But don’t expect this superstar to sit around and do nothing during his retirement. Mourning is a man on a mission to give back.

A few weeks ago, I read Alonzo’s book Resilience and I have to tell you it is one of the most inspiring books I’ve read in a long time. I had the opportunity to talk to Alonzo, but we didn’t chat about his basketball years. I wanted to know more about the man who has faced his own obstacles and yet has organized a foundation to help others, including a little boy named Omar.

I was inspired by Alonzo, who as a young boy decided he wanted to be placed in foster care instead of choosing between his parents when they split. I’m inspired by the man who fought with everything he had through his kidney transplant and now shows others how they can do the same. I’m inspired by the man who started a foundation that has made a difference in the lives of many young people.

Mourning is founder of Alonzo Mourning Charities (AM Charities), a foundation created to encourage the educational development of youth by developing programs and youth enrichment centers that promote positive change in low socioeconomic communities.

Since 1997, Mourning has raised more than $6.5 million for various programs that aid in the development of children and their families. In addition to supporting numerous educational initiatives, he focuses his attention to stimulating the development of youth enrichment centers. With the help of donors, Mourning opened the first center in 2003 in the historic area of Overtown, in South Florida, known as the Overtown Youth Center with plans that call for more centers to open in the future.

Major initiatives led by Mourning include more than seven annual events held throughout the country such as Zo’s Summer Groove, as well as the Honey Shine Mentoring Program that works to empower young girls to shine as women. Mourning is an advocate for youth initiatives and foster care programs that assist abused, abandoned and neglected kids. He is a sought-after speaker engaging audiences of all sizes and ages on the importance of education, leadership and perseverance.

Mourning has received the NBA’s Community Assist Award in 2006; National Urban League’s Outstanding Community Service Award in 2003; Silver Medallion Community Service Award by the National Conference for Community and Justine in 2003; NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Sportsmanship Award in 2002; and The Children’s Trust Excellence Award for Public Policy in 2007, to name a few.

You might know the basketball player, or remember the rookie from years back like the Boston Herald recalled, but here you’ll get to know Alonzo Mourning, the man who gives back. Read the book. If only other professional athletes could do the same.

I loved the book. I think it’s a great read for everybody.

It’s great to hear how much you liked it. I wrote the book to encourage and inspire and help educate other individuals towards overcoming some of the challenges that they may face in life.

But you talk about faith to get you through the rough times. How does someone find the faith if they don’t have it already?

It’s really just about believing and understanding that there’s a greater power than you that’s orchestrating everything that’s going on in our lives. And I know that there is a God. There has to be, because there had to be someone who designed our bodies, designed the life that we live in, you know, this just didn’t evolve out of the ground.

But he’s given us an opportunity to make decisions. So based on our decisions, we determine our overall success in our lives. So thinking positively, that’s a start. Because regardless of how bad you’ve got it, regardless of what the scenario is, there’s somebody else out there that has it ten times worse than you do.

If you’re dealing with some pretty tough and hard and difficult times, then you can overcome it, given the right approach. And when it comes to physical issues that you may be dealing with the body follows the mind. Staying positive is number one. Putting forth that type of energy will help you towards overcoming some of the difficulties and obstacles that you may be facing.

I wrote this because of influences in my life that helped me understand my true purpose here, and also to help other people overcome so many different adversities and obstacles they’re dealing with.

So are there benefits of having an obstacle or adversity?

In every adversity there’s a seed of equivalent benefit. You might not know what that benefit is initially, like when I was diagnosed with this kidney disease, I didn’t know the benefits of that. But now I look back on it, and it’s like, ‘Wow.’ I would not change the path and the journey that I’ve taken. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Because it’s made me stronger, it’s enabled me to touch more lives off the basketball court than I have on the court, and it’s been amazing. It’s been an amazing journey. And I’m hoping that my story will continue to inspire and uplift the lives of other individuals as well.

You’ve always seemed to be the type of person who knew what he wanted, even back to when you were a child.

I didn’t always know what it was going to be. I just took a leap of faith. As a child, I took a leap of faith and said you know, I’m not happy right now. I’m not happy, and I love my parents dearly, and I don’t want to be put in a situation where I have to choose which parent that I love. I have to choose which one I want to live with. That just didn’t feel right to me at that time. Not really knowing, at the age of 11 years old, that there’s millions and millions of families out there that are dealing with divorce and different complications of their marriage and family issues and what have you. There’s millions of families out there that are dealing with that on a regular basis. But as a child, I didn’t understand that. All I knew was, I loved my parents dearly and I wasn’t going to choose between either one of them. At the same time, I wasn’t happy, period. So I followed my heart. But at that particular time, I knew that was a part of my journey.

So when I think about, I don’t believe in coincidences at all in life. I don’t believe it. The word coincidence, I think, should be taken out of the dictionary. Because I don’t believe in coincidences. I think that there’s a plan for everything. There’s a plan. There’s just like a reason why Dr. King went through what he went through, that paved the way for a Barack Obama. You understand what I’m saying? So there’s a plan for everything.

Why not just sit back and enjoy your life instead of helping others?

Well, I’m going to pose a question to you, and you don’t have to answer this, but how many people have helped you be the person that you are today? Think about those individuals. Without those individuals, I wouldn’t be talking to you today. So I’m in a position now where I have a responsibility to utilize my overall experiences and what I went through to change the lives of other individuals, provide opportunities for other individuals – especially young people. Having a situation resonate with me, foster care, helping people, young people in underprivileged situations and impoverished situations, I just feel like it’s a responsibility of mine to do that. Instead of me having the selfish intent of ok, I’m just gonna focus on my life and screw everybody else. I mean, there’s a purpose why we’re here on this earth. We’re here to make this world a better place to live. Not everybody has that particular is probably the most powerful act on this earth. If we all had that mentality in giving and helping, then again, I echo this, we would not have the problems that we have in this world today

I know I can’t save the world, but I know giving is contagious.

Read about how Alonzo helped to save little Omar’s life here.

How is Omar doing?

Oh, he is doing great, thank God. He is in the Ronald McDonald house now. His liver is functioning extremely well and the doctors are very pleased with his progress. Omar was on life support when a two-year-old passed away from a car accident. Omar was literally hours away from leaving us. Immediately, his body started responding to it; it’s amazing. And thank you so much for your support in helping us get the word out and what have you.

You’re so welcome. What do you have coming up with your charities?

Right now, on the agenda coming up, is our bowling event. I am truly excited about the possibilities that are in front of us, because I know we’ve got so much work to do. With the youth center that we have in Overtown, we’ve been able to touch so many lives and attack this vicious cycle of illiteracy.

How are you feeling personally?

I feel fantastic. My kidney function is going extremely well. And right now, I’m just rehabilitating my knee in hopes I can possibly come back at the end of this tour, the latter part of this year to help this young team. But if that’s not in God’s plan, then I’m sure, as in life, as one chapter closes, another chapter starts. So I’m looking forward to that next chapter in my life because I know there’s a lot of things in store.

Thanks Alonzo, we’re looking forward to it too!

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