Wade County: The Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade

The theme rings close to home for Wade, who grew up in a rough Chicago neighborhood surrounded by drugs and gangs. On the Wade’s World Foundation website, Wade indicates that he first began dreaming of creating the foundation when he was just seven years old and saw a story about a celebrity visiting a local school on the news. “All I could think was, ‘Why don’t no one come to my neighborhood?’ And I decided that day that if I ever made it, I would come back to my community and give back,” he writes in the founder’s letter. Over the past year alone, the foundation donated $25,000 to the William Leonard Public Library, in Robbins, Illinois, and Wade made appearances at the schools he attended as a child, which he says, was “probably more life-changing for me than it was for them.”

His hometown initiatives continue this summer with the fourth-annual Wade’s World Weekend, which will take place in Chicago from August 19 to 22. The fundraising weekend spawned from the highly successful Summer Groove, but in this case benefits the neighborhoods from which Wade himself was spawned. “Chicago will always be home to me,” he says. “So we’re trying to get the town behind [the foundation] as well. Even though I don’t play there, my heart is there, and I try to express that.” Wade’s World Weekend is a bit smaller than Zo’s Summer Groove, but it still entails a plethora of fun-filled events like a talent show, school supply giveaway, fundraising dinner, youth summit, and seminars focused on the Stop the Violence campaign.

Rather than get caught up in the violence that pervaded his youth, Wade channeled his energies into his game, but he is wise enough to know that isn’t an option for everyone. “Not every kid is going to be a professional athlete,” he states. “So we want to make sure we touch more bases than just sports.” This mentality also carries over to his Wade’s World Foundation Camp in Chicago.

The three-day Chicago camp is attended by more than 300 kids from the suburban areas, and while basketball is the main focus, this year, attendees will also hear guest speakers address issues regarding self-esteem and nutrition. It’s a topic that Wade is passionate about; he recently partnered up with Pepperidge Farms for the “Team Xtreme” program, which encourages youths to stay active through outdoor play. “Keeping kids fit is really important to me,” he said when the initiative was launched in November 2009. “I believe that when children understand the necessity of living a healthy lifestyle, they are able to make good choices about nutrition and fitness.”

This is a reflection of the Wade’s World motto: Every child deserves a shot. While Wade is inherently talented on the basketball court, which earned him a “shot” via a scholarship to Marquette University, WWF is teaming up with his alma mater and the Boys & Girls Club of America to offer three full-tuition scholarships to the Boys & Girl’s Club’s “Youth of the Year” honorees, recognizing youth who show potential to make a positive impact on the world.

Marquette recognized Wade’s potential to make a positive impact on their basketball team, and he continues to make that positive impact both on and off the court, making Miami proud wherever he goes. So if you happen to run into Wade out and about before he announces where he will be playing next season, we encourage you to send him a glass of Florida orange juice to keep reminding him just how badly Miami wants and needs him to continue to call the Magic City home. – Photography by Larry Busacca