After 25 years of investing in the community, Silver & Black Give Back, formerly known as the Spurs Foundation, continues to live the dream and do its part to improve the Alamo City.
By: Kelly Hamilton
In a “me first” era, I was taken aback by the humility engrained throughout the process of interviewing for this article.
Characteristics of humility, stewardship and growth of others thrive within an organization with such acclaim as NBA championships and numerous individual awards. After 22 years of the Spurs franchise proudly supporting their foundation under the same name, the one-team-one-dream organization recognized that with growth come growing pains.
The franchise was no longer solely NBA, but was NHL and WNBA, as well, and their primary vehicle for scholarship and community involvement should reflect as such. Two years ago, the Spurs Foundation was rebranded Silver & Black Give Back (SBGB) in effort to accurately reflect the franchise’s evolution.
Since the 1988 creation of the Spurs Foundation, under the 25-year guidance of a devoted board of directors, including Spurs Sports & Entertainment’s 36-year veteran Lawrence Payne, Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich and Spurs General Manager RC Buford, the youth sports programs such as the Spurs Youth Basketball League have seen exponential growth.
Investing in kids is something SBGB takes to heart. According to SBGB Executive Director Laura Dixon, “We take our roles as the stewards of the trust that our fans instill in us very seriously. We work hard to be deserving of their support. When we talk about our Spurs family, we are referring to everyone from the owners to the people who watch games on TV or wear a Spurs T-shirt to support us. We love investing in kids.”
In an effort to continually nurture the relationship they have with the community, three years ago, the foundation made the addition of the TEAM UP Challenge after much consulting with the franchise and leaders across the community in both public and private sectors, education experts and nonprofits.
“We listened to them and asked how we could do a better job and have more impact,” Dixon says. “After digesting everything, we understood that we needed to develop a youth service program. The TEAM UP challenge has taken on a life of its own, and we are beyond thrilled with community involvement.”
The TEAM UP challenge is a youth-led service initiative wherein student participants are asked to identify a need in the community. The students, ranging in grade from K-12, write to SBGB with a detailed plan of how they want to address their particular community need. From that point, a review committee culls through the proposals and selects the 20 they feel will have the most impact.
Each of those 20 student groups is given $2,500 to accomplish the goal of their proposal. Each student group has a captain (a teacher or parent) and a scholar (a college student mentor) who provide adult direction.
In order to bridge the gap and encourage college participation, the challenge now extends through college years. The college student is a “mentor” working to help the kids accomplish their challenge.
According to Dixon, “The ultimate goal for us, the teachers and the kids who are participating is to have a project that impacts our community beyond the time they participate in the challenge – inspiring others to fund and support the effort; a ‘pay it forward’ approach to community involvement.”
Dixon further explains that in doing research, SBGB was inspired by the knowledge that what kids are a part of creating, they’re much less likely to destroy, and that it helps them develop a sense of community ownership. “In the first year, seeing what the students came up with was mind-blowing.”
Student participants in the TEAM UP Challenge from Highland High School saw that their zip code had the highest stray animal population in Bexar County. They wanted to teach people about the benefits of spaying and neutering animals.
They created educational materials and talked with residents in the neighborhood, collected pet food, built relationships with local vets, rescued more than 70 stray animals (two of which were adopted by Spurs Sports & Entertainment employees) and ultimately had a profound effect on the animal population in their area.
Ultimately, the reward for the participants is improving the community in which they live. The tangible reward for the participants is recognition at a Spurs or Rampage game and possibly the option of working alongside the Spurs, the Rampage or the Silver Stars.
At the end of each project cycle, the student groups go to the AT&T Center to present their findings to a review committee composed of business and community leaders. Five winning groups each receive a $20,000 gift to back their project.
“We have such a diverse set of interests represented on our teams, and one thing that unites everybody – because of our culture – is the responsibility we have to improve the community and to make it better. That’s something that we are committed to. “
Anyone who has ever attended a Spurs game will readily acknowledge the energy and reciprocity apparent in the relationship between the franchise and its devoted fans.
As an avid Spurs fan, I’ll go out on a limb and say that this energy is unique to the Spurs and to San Antonio. The franchise and supporters alike have a sense of ownership for each other that is unlike anything else in the NBA. Ratchet that up a notch and consider the investment in the community in which the franchise and SBGB have a vested interest.
“Everybody is a Spur.” Philosophically, it’s something that feeds off each other, Dixon says. “The attitude of generosity and giving back permeates. The attitude of gratitude is contagious. We are just trying to help each other stay focused on the big picture.”
Taking all of this into consideration, Dixon has quite a responsibility on her young shoulders. The product of a coach and entrepreneur and a devoted church administrator, she is literally the combination of her parents’ life efforts. The best of them combined is the young woman at the helm of SBGB. “It’s divine to me that I am living the combination of my parents’ lives.”
Emotional about her career, Dixon sits proudly behind her desk as we talk about her life passion. “We believe that we are part of the most special sports organization in the world, so we take that responsibility and the trust that we’ve been given to lead this community effort with the utmost respect.”
This year is the 25th anniversary of SBGB, and for the first time in their history, they are celebrating their birthday in their own house. The AT&T Center will host the annual Tux & Tennies Gala benefiting SBGB on Saturday, March 9, 2013.
As we are on the cusp of basketball season, SBGB allows us yet another reason to celebrate our finest celebrity, not only for entertainment purposes, but for the love of community that the Silver and Black exude with every community endeavor.