Washington Wizards center Andray Blatche has avoided the traveling summer league all-star shows that many NBA stars, including several of his teammates, have kept busy with, preferring to work out and focus on his foundation activities.
The Andray Blatche Foundation mainly involves working with children, but he's expanded his focus to include the Wounded Warriors program, which helps returning veterans and their families.
In partnership with the USO, and the USO of Metropolitan D.C., Blatche hosted a reception Friday for a group of injured veteran and their families aboard the USS Sequoia, the former official presidential yacht. Blatche donated $10,000 to Operation Enduring Care for the Wounded Warrior and Family Center under construction at Fort Belvoir.
"You hear so many bad things about athletes, but so many of them, like Andray, are doing great things," said 14-year Army veteran Rendell Long, who recently has recovered from a knee injury and was a guest at the reception.
"It can be hard to transition from being deployed to returning home. Most soldiers have a lot to deal with, reconnecting with family and having to rehabilitate from a serious injury," said Long, who served in Germany and Iraq and now is in the National Guard. "This program allows us a chance to heal mentally and physically."
Blatche started his foundation in 2009, with the motto of "providing an assist whenever and wherever we can."
Blatche praised the sacrifice of the veterans and the courage of their families, especially the children.
"I love working with kids. Whenever I have the opportunity to work with kids, I take full advantage of it," said Blatche, who took his foundation work to Jamaica, New York, South Carolina and Miami this summer.
"We give out smiles and hugs, and things they need, not just things they want," Blatche said. "We encourage them to stay focused, be positive, and be respectful, and to put school first."
The foundation's activities include hosting basketball and sports camps, refurbishing basketball courts in Jamaica, sponsoring elementary schools, handing out backpacks full of school supplies, providing holiday meals and developing a coloring and activity book ("Get Ready, Get Set, Get Healthy with Andray Blatche") for elementary school students.
"Depending on where we are, kids need different types of nurturing," Blatche said. "In Jamaica, they need more supplies than words. Some places, kids need words and encouragement, and hope."
He's been joined by teammates John Wall, Trevor Booker, Josh Howard and Hamady N'diaye in his foundation work this summer. Blatche also organized a series of workouts for his teammates, but they were poorly attended because of conflicting schedules.
"Most of the guys live on the West Coast and they work out in L.A. They also played in that Vegas league. But a lot of the guys are going to be heading back this way soon, so we're going to put some more workouts together," said Blatche, who is leaving his home in Florida and moving back to D.C. within the week to prepare for the NBA season, even thought the league is in a lockout.
"I'm just trying to stay positive and hope for the best not trying to get discouraged when I hear negative news about how the talks are going," Blatche said. "I hope everything will be resolved soon."
But even if that's not the case, Blatche says he's not going anywhere.
"No, not at all," Blatche said of going overseas to play. "I'm at a point where I'm financially stable, and I'm just going to stay here and work out."
When the season finally does get going, Blatche has high hopes for the Wizards.
"Last year was a tough year for us. We had a lot of young players, and our leader and point guard was a rookie. But now, John [Wall] knows what it takes," Blatche said. "We have scorers, JaVale [McGee] is up and coming, and we added a terrific player in Chris Singleton who's going to bring some defense. He's a hard worker and he's energetic, and he's a guy we can use on this team.
"We have the right pieces, and that starts with a great point guard, which we have. We just need to put them all together."
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