Utah kids walked out on the court with the NBA All-Stars

Feb 18, 2023, 6:38 PM | Updated: 6:40 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — As thousands of Utahns filed into the Huntsman Center Saturday to get a glimpse of Team Giannis and Team Lebron during the All-Star Practice, a group of Utah kids got the experience of a lifetime when they walked onto the court with the NBA All-Stars.

“It was amazing. It was the best opportunity I had in my entire life, to be honest,” said Miracle, who walked out with former Utah Jazz star Donavan Mitchell.

Miracle was one of dozens of kids living in foster care invited to attend the practice with Raise the Future, the charity chosen by Giannis Antetokounmpo as a beneficiary of the NBA All-Star Game.

“What we focus on is making sure that these kids know that they’re worthy of love and affection, and when you have superstars like this tell them that there’s nothing that can be better than this, it’s unreal,” said Ann Ayers, CEO of Raise the Future.

About 20 kids and their mentors from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah were also in attendance representing the beneficiary of Team Lebron. They walked out with the Western Conference All-Stars.

“We’re still in shock a little bit, but it’s such an amazing opportunity for our kids, once in a lifetime obviously, and for our organization, it’s game-changing,” Nancy Winemiller-Basinger, President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah.

As beneficiaries, Raise the Future and BBBS of Utah will receive large donations, potentially in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Each organization said the money would go directly to helping Utah kids and their families.

“What we’re going to be able to do is place more children with more families and work more intensely. There are 150 more children in Utah right now who are waiting for a family, and so if we can serve more of those kids, that will be amazing,” Ayers explained.

“We have more than 100 kids on our waiting list for our programs, and so we hope everybody will hear about this opportunity and want to come to be a mentor to one of these amazing kids,” added Winemiller-Basinger.

Utah Governor Spencer Cox and First Lady Abby Cox were also in attendance at today’s All-Star Practice, each wearing a t-shirt representing one of the charities.

Governor Cox sat with the kids from BBBS of Utah while the First Lady sat with Raise the Future, a charity she’s worked with through her Show Up initiative.

“It’s incredible to support two of the best charities in Utah. This is a really big deal,” Gov. Cox said.

“Raise the Future does amazing work; we’re so excited for these kids to have this opportunity,” First Lady Abby Cox added.

During the event, KSL TV also spoke with Giannis Antetokounmpo about the opportunity for the kids from BBBS of Utah and Raise the Future to walk out onto the court.

“It was awesome. A lot of kids were nervous going out there, and all the players did a great job making them feel comfortable, making them feel good, making them feel a part of this,” expressed Antetokounmpo.

Each of the team captains for the All-Star Game chose their charity beneficiary. When asked why Antetokounmpo chose Raise the Future, he said their work spoke to his heart.

“I have brothers, and I try to help them, mentor them, advise them the best way possible, reach out to them whenever I can, guide them through their journey, and it was a charity I could relate to. It was a charity that was like home to me,” he said.

The excitement for the kids and staff at BBBS of Utah and Raise the Future will continue Sunday when they attend the NBA All-Star Game at Vivint Arena.

“These are kids who have gone through a lot of rejection, and I think to have these superstars say you’re worthy and we want to invest in you, we want you to be seen, we want to share this platform we have with you, this is the ultimate sharing of privilege and power, it’s amazing,” Ayers said.

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Utah kids walked out on the court with the NBA All-Stars