Alonzo Mourning joins forces with global charity organization

Alonzo Mourning (right) has raised over $10 million for his foundation since 1997, and his philanthropic efforts will continue to grow as an ambassador with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.

Ross Devonport

For almost 20 years, former Heat center Alonzo Mourning has quietly been donating his time and money to local causes close to his heart in the South Florida area.

Now, it’s time for him to go global.

On Friday, at the Overtown Youth Center he helped build, Mourning was named an ambassador for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, a worldwide non-profit organization that provides financial support for projects that use the power of sport to provide coaching and education to young people in challenging or deprived environments.

”This an exciting moment. We are truly excited about this partnership,” said Mourning. ”Laureus is about enhancing the lives of young people across the globe. To represent them is a tremendous honor and I’m very pleased to be able to help spread the message about the important role of sport, and how it plays a role in child development.”

Joining Mourning at the announcement was Laureus chairman and former Olympic champion hurdler, Edwin Moses.

”We pride ourselves in aligning ourselves with top quality people,” said Moses. ”We’re in the fortunate position to help. As Nelson Mandela, one of our patrons who helped found Laureus, said, ‘Sport has the power to change the world. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.’ ”

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Mourning knows better than most what kind of impact sport can have on a child. Hailing from a broken family in Virginia, Mourning grew up in a foster home, found basketball in middle school and never looked back, becoming a seven-time NBA All-Star.

He started his philanthropic ways back in 1997 with the formation of his Mourning Family Foundation, which has to date raised over $10 million for various programs.

”The one thing that sparked it all was understanding the things that other people have done for me,” said Mourning. ”I’ve been fortunate and blessed with the resources to help me get where I am today. Without those, there’s no telling where I would be right now.

”When I think about the individuals that have contributed to my development as a person and an athlete, I’ve never forgotten that. I wouldn’t be in this position without those investments made. If I don’t pay it forward, then I’d be doing the people who contributed to me a disservice.”

In addition to the Overtown Youth Center, which sits just a few blocks from the old Miami Arena where the big No. 33 did some of his best on-court work, Mourning and his wife, Tracy, started a program called Honey Shine, a mentoring program whose mission is to develop and nurture the mind, body, and soul of young women by providing experiences that enlighten and create balance in their lives.

There’s also the high school named after the couple in North Miami, which opened in 2009 and now houses nearly 1,700 students in grades 9-12.

Former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning plays basketball with kids in Miami on June 27.

As much as he’s done locally, this blessing, as Mourning calls it, from Laureus gives him a chance to potentially get involved on a global scale.

The organization, started in the early 2000s by South African businessman Johann Rupert, began with just six projects in four countries. Now, it’s up to 150 projects in 40 countries. It also presents the annual Laureus World Sport Awards.

”I understand the significance of the work we’re try to accomplish on the global level,” said Mourning. ”Helping these kids understand how the components of sport — teamwork, camaraderie, hard work and integrity — can transition into life skills. Sport brings people together and stimulates positive change.”

A friend of Mourning’s brought his work to the attention of Moses who, as the winner of 122 straight races during his glittering career, knows a successful entity when he sees it.

”We have a very specific process we use to decide the projects we’re going to engage,” said Moses. ”We vet out and analyze to select the ‘best of class,’ and find people who have everything together about their project: the operations, protocols, financing.

”Our association with him is just as important as his association with us. We need people like him. We find people who are doing an outstanding job, have an outstanding staff and mission and we support them.”

Moses is clearly confident he has found a project worthy of his organization’s assistance, and there’s no doubt that Mourning is ready for this new opportunity.

”I look at some of the obstacles and challenges that young people are facing across the globe,” said Mourning. ”Our world was built through people giving other people opportunities, and if you’re in a position to do that, why not give someone else an opportunity? By doing that, you’re making your community, your country, the world you live in a better place because you’re improving someone else’s life. By being given this platform as an ambassador, it just increases my opportunity to do that.”