J.R. Smith and the J.R. Smith Youth Foundation hosted its’ inaugural Casino Night Charity Gala on Mar. 25 in New York City.
The event, which took place at the West Side Highway’s premiere club destination, Stage 48, was the first event Smith, 30, had held in New York to benefit his charity.
The night began with appearances from celebrity guests and fellow athletes, ranging from Victor Cruz of the New York Giants, Smith’s Cleveland Cavaliers teammate Iman Shumpert with girlfriend singer Teyana Taylor, and Smith’s family.
Smith’s foundation, which was founded nearly eight years ago and launched officially in 2010, has a mission to reach out to youth in communities around the country. As noted on their website, Smith and his team, known by “Team Swish,” aim to venture beyond what is normally done by organizations by expanding their range and donating to several causes.
“It’s been amazing, the ride has been fun,” said Chris Smith, J.R.’s younger brother on how the organization has grown. “We just want to continue it every year and grow bigger within the foundation and the family.”
Smith’s brother also referred to how the organization has gone above and beyond in how they diversify who they assist, saying that they want to help fund causes dealing with Down Syndrome and others.
Smith said that when he began planning for his organization, his goal was to support them in any endeavor they wanted to pursue, whether is was through sports, music, the performing arts, or anything that helped them express their talents and abilities.
Through his foundation, Smith and his team have also sponsored golf tournaments to build upon what they currently do in the community. Not long ago, Smith spoke about his bond with Brad Hennefer, a young man with Down Syndrome who has participated in numerous Special Olympic events over the course of his life. Both Smith and Hennefer refer to each other as brothers, a bond Smith said that he wants to build with kids when he interacts with them in the community.
“It’s almost like a big brother-little brother relationship. It’s just about investing in kids more than anything. And before you know it, we’re going to be seven years old. And for the kids, it’s all about them.”
Dr. Sheryl Figliano, an Ohio-native and fan of Smith during his time with the Knicks and now with the Cavaliers, traveled to the event with her husband to interact and talk with him about their cause. As President and Owner of the Centers for Hearing Care in Ohio, Dr. Figliano, along with her husband, Fortunato, have traveled domestically and internationally to individuals in poverty-stricken areas with hearing loss.
“We’re trying to break the cycle of poverty, because in many countries, the children are shunned,” said Dr. Figliano. “They have the hearing loss, they don’t go to school, they’re told to stay in the house. They’re almost outcasts.”
In many ways, Dr. Figliano and Smith share much in common, attempting to help the underprivileged while enlarging the demographics they reach out to. Dr. Figliano and her husband had the chance to meet and interact with Smith during his media session, adding on to the network that organizations such as Smith’s could use when growing their foundations.
Smith said he plans on doing more in the near future, including hosting a golf tournament in Las Vegas, according to his brother Chris.
To learn more about the J.R. Smith Youth Foundation, http://www.teamswish.com/