Alumni weekend is for our players, fans and charity

This weekend is, without question, one of my favorite weekends of the year.

My “sons” will be back in town, some fortunate Basketball Fantasy Experience campers will get to experience the life of a UK basketball player, and our fans get to see some of their favorite players and relive in some of their favorite memories. Sitting in the head coaching chair of this unparalleled program, what more could I ask for?

For all the things I’m excited about this weekend, the backbone of this event, and what truly has me revving to get this thing underway, is charity. Everything we make this weekend – from the Basketball Fantasy Experience to our sponsors at Papa John’s, Kentucky Bourbon Ale, Alltech, WLAP, 98.1 The Bull and Jeff Ruby’s, to the UK Alumni Charity Game – will go to 17 different organizations we (UK, ProCamps and The Calipari Foundation) have agreed to make a contribution to. My hope is that we are able to donate somewhere in the neighborhood of $700,000 to $800,000, more than double the $350,000 we raised last year.

The 17 organizations we will be handing checks to include 4 Paws for Ability, City House, EverFi, Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, Hope For The Warriors®, Hope House, Kentucky Army National Guard, Kids2Camp, Louisville Zoo, Red Cross for the Bluegrass, Samaritan’s Feet, Save the Children, Starkey Hearing Foundation, Streets Ministries, Team Focus, UK Healthcare and Urban League. It’s important to me that our former players present the checks so they realize how much they have an impact here and in our communities, even after they have left.

I want to use this space to give you some background on the charities, foundations and organizations we are giving to. I hope you will take a little time to look into one or more of these and get involved in their efforts.

4 Paws for Ability

4 Paws for Ability is a comprehensive service-dog organization that strives to take the “dis” out of disability. The organization trains service dogs to help children and veterans live more independent lives so they can better contribute to society. 4 Paws service dogs are provided to veterans regardless of age, disability or geographic location. Their commitment to the disabled and case-specific training sets them apart from other service dog organizations. Since its inception in 1998, 4Paws has placed 650 dogs in seven countries across the globe. A large portion of the organization’s success can be attributed not only to their donations but their volunteer network which helps train, house and raise new service dogs.

City House

City House is the only licensed support program specifically designed for runaway and homeless youth within Collin County, who face a range of challenges and issues. In 2013, City House is celebrating its 25th year. City House strives to give every child and young adult who comes into its care the skills and confidence to succeed in life, especially while coping with difficult circumstances. City House has helped more than 6,000 youth over the last 25 years, including kids from Frisco, and it continues to look for ways to help even more. City House accomplishes its mission through its programs at My Friend’s House and its TLP Program.


EverFi is the leading education technology company focused on teaching, assessing, badging and certifying students in critical skills. EverFi combines cutting-edge personalized technology, deep education research and data, and a dedicated implementation team that allows each teacher to feel as though they have a blended learning assistant in their classroom. Most importantly, EverFi partners with the private sector and foundations that sponsor this innovation across the country.

Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky

The Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky’s mission is to support collaborative work in the Appalachian community around a common vision that enhances the lives of all of its citizens and to create a permanent endowment to serve as a catalyst and resource to respond to changing community priorities.

Hope For the Warriors

The mission of Hope For The Warriors® is to enhance the quality of life for post-9/11 service members, their families, and families of the fallen who have sustained physical and psychological wounds in the line of duty. Hope For The Warriors® is dedicated to restoring a sense of self, restoring the family unit, and restoring hope for service members and military families.

Hope House

The Hope House’s mission is to care for homeless and at-risk persons by providing life-sustaining and life-rebuilding services that are comprehensive and address underlying causes.

Kentucky Army National Guard Memorial Fund

The Kentucky National Guard Memorial Fund was established to honor our fallen Citizen Soldiers and Airmen through the construction of a memorial at the entrance to Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, Ky. Through private financial support from Kentucky citizens, corporations and foundations, those who have perished in the line of duty will be recognized and cherished at the Kentucky National Guard Memorial.


Kids2Camp, a 501(c)(3), provides grants for child-focused non-profit organizations to send the children they serve to summer camps. One hundred percent of the donations directly underwrite camp scholarships for children. All Scholarships include full camp tuition, transportation to and from camp, a camp T-shirt,  an autographed memorabilia item and a photo with host athlete. Kids2Camp provides more than 6,000 scholarships annually to Make-a-Wish organizations, disadvantaged youth and children of active-duty/retired service members.

Louisville Zoo

The Louisville Zoo is dedicated to its mission to “Better the Bond Between People and Our Planet” by providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for visitors, and leadership in conservation education.

Red Cross for the Bluegrass

American Red Cross of the Bluegrass is donating the money it receives to local disaster relief.  Each year, more than 500 families in the Bluegrass Region are affected by a disaster.  The most common disaster to which the Red Cross responds to is a single family house fire. The funds donated by alumni weekend will provide direct aid to those impacted by providing shelter, food, clothing and emotional support.  The proceeds from the alumni game, along with the Red Cross’ matching contributions, will provide disaster relief services to 100 families right here in the Bluegrass.

Samaritan’s Feet

Samaritan’s Feet is a community of more than 70,000 volunteers who have joined together to make a difference in the lives of children in need in every corner of the world. More than four million impoverished children and adults in more than 60 nations have been served by having their feet washed and receiving a new pair of shoes. Through this simple act of humility and servant-leadership, Samaritan’s Feet team members and volunteers are expressing love, compassion and a message that brings hope.

Save the Children

Save the Children is the world’s leading independent organization for children, working in more than 120 countries, including the United States. Its mission is to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children, and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives.

Starkey Hearing Foundation

The Starkey Hearing Foundation uses hearing as a vehicle to reflect caring and help people reach their full potential. Hearing loss affects more than 63 million children worldwide, yet many do not have access to the hearing care that can help them. The Starkey Hearing Foundation works to develop sustainable systems of care globally and fits more than 100,000 hearing aids to people in need annually, having worked in more than 100 countries. The Foundation also promotes hearing health awareness and education through the Listen Carefully program and provides hearing instruments to low-income Americans through the Hear Now program.

Streets Ministries

Streets Ministries is a Christian ministry dedicated to serving the core needs of elementary, middle and high school age students who call the inner city of Memphis home. At its two centers, Streets provides a safe haven and much more: a place to hang out, meet a friend and be welcomed with an unconditional love based in Jesus Christ. To achieve its mission, Streets has developed a wide variety of educational, athletic, and mentor based programming that is designed to meet both the immediate as well as the long term needs of the students we work with.

Team Focus

Through Team Focus, young men without a father figure in their lives will be provided with role models and positive influences that will bridge the father gap and help develop them as leaders to become a positive influence in the world and support them in achieving the ultimate victory – walking in the destiny God has planned for them.  The mission of Team Focus, Inc. is to provide a year round program of support, encouragement and Godly values that foster the development of life skills in young men without a father figure in their lives, bridge the father gap and support the family structure.

UK HealthCare

UK HealthCare is committed to the pillars of academic health care — research, education and clinical care. Dedicated to the health of the people of Kentucky, UK HealthCare provides the most advanced patient care and serves as an information resource. With the funds from alumni weekend, UK HealthCare will strengthen local health care and improve the delivery system by partnering with community hospitals and physicians. UK HealthCare will support the organization’s education and research needs by offering cutting edge services on par with the nation’s best providers.

Urban League

The Urban League has been empowering the community and changing lives since 1968. The Urban League offers affordable housing, job skills, professional development, computer skills, financial literacy, youth educational services, and advocating for equality and inclusion.

Big Blue Nation, you can do your part to help us by joining us Monday night at Rupp Arena. Less than 5,000 tickets remain. Tickets can still be purchased at the Rupp Arena box office, online at, at any Ticketmaster outlet or by phone at 1-800-745-3000.