For Deron Williams, the act of charity has always been about much more than just signing a check.
Ever since Deron entered the NBA, he has been looking for unique ways to not only raise money for the causes he holds close to his heart, but also to create an enjoyable and memorable experience for those involved.
In 2007, Deron and his wife Amy established The Point of Hope Foundation with a goal to help improve the quality of life for families and children. Since then, the foundation has evolved to take on many causes, and for D-Will, sharing his own blessings with others has always been a priority.
“There are so many different causes, so many different diseases, so many people who have problems,” Deron said. “Point of Hope is just about helping people, and kids, especially. I’m blessed to be able to give back.”
Before Deron made it to the NBA, Amy would drive from their hometown outside of Dallas to Champaign, Ill. to watch D-Will play for the Illini basketball team—but more importantly, she made the trips so he could spend time with his young daughter, Denae. Now beyond those tough times, Deron and Amy felt as though they had to use their place in the world to give back to those who are going through similar tribulations.
“Amy and I are very much into growing the Point of Hope Foundation. We started it nine years ago and at the time, we had our first child and both felt there’s something we can do for less fortunate kids.”
“Our causes range from juvenile diabetes to autism, to cancer clinics. We give scholarships, host youth clubs and try to help low-income and homeless families. Once we had this Christmas dinner for single moms and that really got to me. Don’t forget, I grew up with a single mom… a remarkable woman, a phenomenal mother.”
In its first year, Point of Hope hosted the inaugural Deron Williams Celebrity Golf Classic to aid the Huntsman Cancer Institute and the Inaugural Point of Hope Christmas Dinner for single mothers in Salt Lake City and their children. Though in the thick of the NBA season, D-Will carried that Christmas dinner tradition along with him when he was traded from the Utah Jazz to the Brooklyn Nets.
Everything changed for Deron and Amy, in their lives and their charity efforts, in 2011 when they received news that their adopted son, D.J. was diagnosed with autism. Since then, many of Point of Hope’s initiatives, including the annual Christmas event, has been catered toward families with autistic children.
Deron is in a partnership and acts as an ambassador for Autism Speaks—and together they host events and work to promote autism awareness, while also raising money for research.
“It’s been a great partnership. I enjoy working with them,” Deron said of Autism Speaks. “They do a great job of just raising awareness and raising money for the cause, and getting the word out about Autism. I’m definitely happy to be a part of that, be an ambassador for them and try to help in any way possible.”
Each year, Deron hosts an Autism Awareness Night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. No. 8 donates his suite and recruits others to do the same in hopes of providing an environment suitable for autistic children and their families to enjoy Nets games.
As parents of a child with autism, Deron and Amy know the distinct challenges the disorder presents. So the opportunity to provide a special and enjoyable experience for autistic children and their families is truly priceless.
“We try to provide the best environment we can for them to be able to enjoy the game and watch the game in a controlled environment. That can be so tough on these kids and the parents as well,” he said. “A lot of kids with autism don’t like noise, they don’t like ruckus and they’re rattled by certain things. So it was important to us to try to get as many suites as we could and get them away from that so that they could enjoy the game and their parents could enjoy the game.”
Another way D-Will is able to raise money for Autism Speaks, as well as a variety of other charities, is his signature event: Dodge Barrage. While with the Utah Jazz, he was in search of a unique way to raise money. And along with teammate Kyle Korver, he started Dodge Barrage, a celebrity dodgeball tournament.
The inaugural tournament was in 2009, and Deron has been hosting the event ever since, bringing it across the country to Brooklyn. D-Will hosted the event for the fifth consecutive year in 2014 and raised money for Point of Hope, as well as the Brooklyn League Education and Treatment Center.
“I don’t know why we picked dodgeball but it’s something fun and different,” D-Will says. “It’s my favorite event. It’s pretty affordable for everybody, and it’s a great way to raise money.”
For his efforts, D-Will has received the NBA’s monthly Kia Community Assist Award twice, and he was also nominated for the year-long honor. But for Deron and Amy, the recognition is nothing compared to the feeling they receive from helping others—and his status as an NBA star is the perfect vehicle for reaching those in need.
“This is far more rewarding than just playing basketball,” Amy said. “The best part of being who he is, is the impact and difference he can make.”