Volunteer's Proposal Leads to Basketball Court Donations in Grenada

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 3, 2005 When Hurricane Ivan landed on the shores of Grenada last year, Etan Thomas, National Basketball Association (NBA) player for the Washington Wizards, watched the destruction of his familys native land and decided to act. Thousands of miles away, Peace Corps volunteer Micah Strand witnessed the devastation first-hand, decided that something needed to be done, and contacted the NBA for help.

This Thursday, both mens dedication to the people of Grenada will pay off when Thomas arrives in country to witness how the country is recovering. While in Grenada, Thomas will visit with Peace Corps volunteers and participate in a basketball clinic with local youth to commemorate the 14 outdoor basketball systems donated to the Peace Corps by the National Basketball Association, in partnership with Spalding, that will replace those destroyed by Hurricane Ivan.

NBA player Etan Thomas presents the basketball court donations to Grenada. Volunteer Micah Strand helped facilitate the donation.
NBA player Etan Thomas presents the basketball court donations to Grenada. Volunteer Micah Strand helped facilitate the donation.
In early September 2004, Hurricane Ivan directly struck Grenada, killing dozens of people and damaging nearly 90 percent of homes and businesses on the island. The hurricane caused $815 million in damages two times the nations gross domestic product.

Shortly after, Strand began working on hurricane recovery projects with the Peace Corps. Surrounded by the devastation Hurricane Ivan had caused, he decided to act by sending out e-mail proposals to organizations asking for help.

At the same time, Thomas led seven other NBA players with ties to the Caribbean to raise more than $100,000 for UNICEF to support hurricane relief efforts in the Caribbean. And soon, the NBA, in partnership with Spalding, the athletic equipment company that is the official game ball of the NBA, agreed to donate 14 basketball systems that will create seven courts in Grenada.

Strand said the donation will give the youth of Grenada the opportunity to participate in the sport of basketball.

"We watch our NBA heroes on television with full confidence that we can go outside and emulate them at the local park, indoor courts, or even our driveways," Strand said. "It is not so in many other countries, especially those that have recently been ravaged by natural disasters."

"It is an honor to help the place where my family is from," said Thomas. "I\'m happy to have the opportunity to see firsthand that my donation has gone to help better the lives of the people that live in Grenada."

Thousands of Grenadian youth, who make up 30 percent of the total population, lost their homes, schools, and playgrounds in the devastation. Sports such as basketball are just one of many activities that provide productive outlets for at-risk youth.

The generosity and compassion displayed by Thomas, the NBA, and Spalding has amazed Strand.

"They have chosen to help others when they could have easily chosen not to," he said. "It is the same sense of giving and commitment that is at the heart of the Peace Corps mission."

Since 1961, more than 178,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.

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