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MIAMI (AP) - The side door to the newly refurbished gym opened, a blast of sunlight splashed into the darkened corner, and 100 children began shrieking in unison.
LeBron James was thrilled.
“It never gets old,” James said.
That was the reception Wednesday when the LeBron James Family Foundation and Hewlett-Packard began rolling out what will soon be 1,000 new computers to 59 different Boys & Girls Clubs nationwide. At the Miami club, the roof is getting replaced and workspaces for kids are being spruced up with furniture from the HomeCourt line that James designs with girlfriend Savannah Brinson.
It’s all part of the commitment James made last summer, when his hourlong “The Decision” special on July 8, 2010 _ in which he said he was joining the Miami Heat _ raised more than $3 million for charity.
“I know a lot comes with being a professional athlete,” James said in an interview with The Associated Press. “That’s also being a role model to a lot of kids that look up to me. This automatically comes with it. And I have nothing but time for kids. I could easily be at home and just relaxing. … But the opportunity to be here and giving back to these kids, I’m happy to do it.”
James mingled with the kids for a while after a short ceremony, checking out the new computers _ loaded with many of the newest bells and whistles _ and posing for photos. One girl won a contest to have her bedroom redesigned by James and Brinson, and outside, people waited with their cell-phone cameras poised in hopes of catching a brief glimpse of the NBA’s two-time MVP.
At one of the busiest stages of the NBA season, James said he welcomed the idea of taking an afternoon away from basketball.
“Kids are a huge passion of mine,” James said. “I always said when I was growing up, ‘If I ever have an opportunity, if I ever got big enough, whatever the case may be, I will always try to give back as much as possible.’”
Strange as it sounds, James may never have been bigger on the night of “The Decision.”
An estimated 10 million people watched the show, which elicited all sorts of reaction the minute he infamously said that he would “take my talents to South Beach” and join the Heat.
James has said many times that he regrets certain aspects of the hastily arranged program, but adds that the money it raised made it more than worth doing.
“Very few people, with one hour of their day, one hour of their life _ that’s all that show was _ can impact this many people,” said Boys & Girls Clubs Vice President Frank Sanchez.
Sanchez said he believes “hundreds of thousands of kids” nationwide will be impacted by what James is providing. The northwest Miami neighborhood which hosted Wednesday’s event has a high school graduation rate of between 50 and 60 percent, something the Boys & Girls Club is trying to raise considerably.
Days like Wednesday will make that task easier, Sanchez said.
By David Keene
Conference showed that the values Reagan cherished still endure
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