The vision first surfaced shortly after he arrived at Kansas, the dream became a reality a few weeks ago and the giving back began this weekend.
Former Kansas center Landen Lucas, who, despite being busier than ever while chasing his dream of playing professional basketball, still has found time recently to pour his heart and soul into one of his newest passions — the Landen Lucas Foundation – Sports for Life initiative, which aims to help fund the athletic endeavors of young people in Lawrence who may otherwise not be able to afford to participate in sports.
Back in Lawrence briefly over the weekend before returning to Daytona Beach, Fla., to continue the grind of three workouts a day, rest, recovery and repeat while waiting for whatever pro basketball opportunities present themselves, Lucas spent most of the past few days sprinting full-speed-ahead with his foundation.
That included a meet-and-greet with potential supporters on Saturday at the Adams Alumni Center and two separate fundraising events on Sunday in Lawrence and Topeka, where he met with fans, signed autographs and auctioned off his old KU gear.
By the far the most important part of Lucas’ weekend, however, came Friday afternoon, when he met with 13 of the 20 kids who were the first to receive scholarship money from Lucas’ newborn foundation.
The get-together took place at South Middle School and featured lots of smiles, a few questions — both about Lucas the basketball player and Lucas the philanthropist — and the overwhelming feeling from Lucas that those moments were the exact reason he and his mother, Shelley, started all of this in the first place.
“It was awesome,” Lucas said. “I got to sit down and have lunch with them during their lunch break and just talk to them and get to know them a little bit. It was really cool for me to see all of the different sports they were interested in. We had one kid who was way into archery, there was dance, track, basketball, tennis.”
One story, of a young boy who had always been into sports but never had the opportunity to play on organized teams, really pulled at Lucas’ heart strings. It was during Saturday’s event when Lucas first learned that it was his foundation that bought the boy his first bike, therein opening up a world of possibilities for someone who, just days earlier, had very few.
“That felt good because, at one point in time, I was in the same position as them,” said Lucas, noting that he grew up in a single-parent home and did not always have the funds to do everything his friends could do. “That really brought to my attention the impact I can have on these kids and it made me really want to progress this thing and hopefully do even more for them.”
Lucas’ busy weekend was merely the beginning of what he and his mother hope will be a long-lasting relationship between the Lucases and young athletes in Lawrence and, eventually, in other communities around the country, as well.
Shelley recently met with both Wilson sporting goods and the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department to discuss partnerships to help fund some of their initiatives and provide young people in Lawrence with both opportunities and equipment to play the sports they love. She also is in the process of negotiating ways to help cover transportation costs for young athletes who might have trouble just getting to practices or games.
“There are a lot of students in this district that have financial instability in their home,” said Shelley, noting that the qualifier for eligibility for funding from the foundation was local youth on free or reduced lunch. “Some of the students who we have offered this opportunity to, it takes them a little bit to fathom that somebody would be willing to pay for them to do sports, that somebody would care enough to do that. We wanted to invest back into the community and it’s really important to us to show that we’re using this money right away. We want the community to feel the positive result from it and we also want to show that our intentions are not only good but also that we are serious about this.”
While the foundation has raised more than $20,000 to date and only appears to be picking up steam, Shelley said one of their bigger goals was to identify some larger donations that could be invested to help grow the money and the foundation that way, as well.
Still in its infant stages in many ways, the foundation is in the process of coming up with a logo and brochures to help get the word out, complete with the Lucas family motto — Pursue Excellence, Cheer for Others, Do the Right Thing.
Donations can be made via checks sent to Sports For Life, 4000 SW 6th Street, Suite B #333, Lawrence, KS, 66049 or online at the foundation's Go Fund Me page or via Square Cash at $SRLucas.
One other fun way to get involved in the immediate future is through a raffle that will bring together Lucas’ foundation, New Life in Christ Church Ministry and Brian Hanni’s annual Rock Chalk Roundball Classic, which benefits local children fighting cancer.
Raffle tickets can be purchased online and the grand prize includes a custom gold Jayhawk necklace valued at more than $3,500, a one-night stay at The Oread hotel, two tickets to a KU basketball game next season, an official Landen Lucas-worn KU game jersey, a pair of Lucas’ Size 17 shoes worn during the World University Games in Korea two summers ago, an autographed photograph of Lucas and dinner for two with Lucas and a celebrity guest at The Oread.
The winner will be drawn during the Roundball Classic on June 8 and supporters need not be present to win.
“Landen Lucas is an amazing young man who truly gets what it means to have and use the platform that he has for something good,” Hanni said. "At a time when so many athletes are out to get theirs and have their moment in the sun, he, at the age of 23, is already giving back."