Tony Bennett is a star with the National Basketball League of Canada, where he helped the Windsor Express earn a 2015 NBL championship. Prior to his NBL years, he starred in the Premier Basketball League and in the Continental Basketball Association; and while in college, he helped Bradley University advance to the Round of 16 in the 2006 NCAA basketball tournament.
Yesterday, Bennett participated in something that, for him, was even greater than all those hoops accolades.
It was his second annual “Mr. 40 Day,” an event where he gave back to the children of his Chicago hometown. Thanks to his basketball connections and with reach-outs to several sponsors, Bennett helped provide a day of respite for children in one of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods. The kids received sneakers, basketballs and bookbags for positive motivation and inspiration.
I asked Tony yesterday about “Mr. 40 Day” and how it came about. Here’s what he told me.
“Mr. 40 Day is just a day for me to give back to the kids in my community. I came up with the idea last year – my birthday is August 22nd, so last year I decided that for my birthday for the rest of my life, I would celebrate it by having a day specifically for the kids from the neighborhood I grew up in, instead of partying or doing any of the typical things a person a do for their birthday!”
Tony knows the importance of giving kids the opportunity to avoid the pitfalls that could ruin their lives. Gang violence. Drugs. Guns. Any kid that can find a way out – through education or through basketball, for example – is a kid that can be saved.
“I grew up in a neighborhood (the Village) that doesn’t have too much positive to look forward to, and over the last few years I’ve become like the prized possession of the neighborhood with all the basketball success I’ve had. So I reached out to all the connects I have thru basketball – like Nike, ballup, Jordan Brand, etc., and they sent all types of products for the kids. I also provide food, haircuts and other prizes – but I ONLY do it for the kids in the neighborhood, and I allow no women to work or lift a finger on that day, only the guys from the neighborhood work on this day. Mr. 40 Day is a chance for me to give something to my neighbors every year, so that the kids have a chance of making it out like I did without giving in to the gangs, drugs, or whatever in house personal issues that may be going on!”
Tony stressed that what he’s doing with the “Mr. 40 Day” was not only his chance to “pay good things forward,” but also to honor those who helped him when he was looking for positive role models as a youth.
“There was a man in my neighborhood named Mr. Farley, he had a talent show, a dance contest, and basically just a huge gathering for the neighborhood to all get together as one before the school year started. I took that concept twisted it a little and came up with Mr. 40 Day. My hopes is to get it to the point where I can give every kid in the neighborhood a book bag, a pair of shoes, and a start-up to go back to school with – and eventually do a second Mr. 40 Day in a different neighborhood other than mine every year.”
All the best to those who participated in Chicago’s second annual “Mr. 40 Day,” and thanks to Tony Bennett for making this day a very special one for at-risk youth.
Oh yeah. In case you forgot who Tony Bennett is…
Let me remind you.
He was also the man who “kindly” reminded me that I’m not the best prognosticator of basketball tournament picks. 😀
All is good, my brother. Congratulations on a successful, blessed and happy Mr. 40 Day!!