For years I had heard Elsa speak of how her favorite player in the NBA was D-Wade and how if she ever got a chance to meet him she would share with him how he saved her life by inspiring her to pick up a basketball as opposed to drugs and alcohol. Knowing how much Elsa loves basketball, I would always invite her to attend Knicks and Liberty games with Athletes for Charity and unbeknownst to Elsa I was in cahoots with the Knicks and Heat Community Relations staff members to help set up a surprise of a lifetime for her. Our combined efforts came to fruition on April 11, 2010 when Elsa and I were invited to attend a Knicks v. Heat game. Elsa was surprised to learn that this was not our usual bring a group of kids to a game day when we showed up and realized it was just going to be her and I and an opportunity to hang out courtside for pre-game shoot around. While hanging around courtside she was presented with a D-Wade autographed pair of sneakers not knowing there was so much more to come after the game. She was so excited to received a pair of his sneakers that had been personally signed by him and shipped to NY from Miami for her.
Why was Elsa selected for such a once in a lifetime opportunity? Because she is 20 years old about will soon age out of foster care when she turns 21 in the Fall. Elsa has been in foster care her entire life. Born to a drug addicted parent, she was taken from her biological mother as an infant. There are more than 500,000 children in the foster care system across the United States and over 100,000 of them will never be reunited with their biological families. Many foster care youth find themselves plagued with issues of abandonment, mental, emotional and physical disabilities, low self-esteem, and poor academic performance, to name a few. Then there are those who age out of foster care without the necessary tools for survival who are then confronted with issues of substance abuse, higher levels of unemployment, unplanned pregnancies, homelessness, and engagement in criminal activity that often lead to incarceration, etc. Elsa on the other hand is a success story as she did not fall prey to many of the challenges most youth in foster care are confronted with and thus we wanted to reward Elsa by making one of her dreams come true and facilitating her meeting her idol, Mr. Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat. The video speaks for itself, check it out: