By Morgan Lawrence
Born and raised in the Lower Ninth Ward, former NBA player and assistant coach for the New Orleans Pelicans, Robert Pack, used his talent in basketball and his time as a mentor to train young boys to dream of success through his foundations, Team H.O.P.E NOLA and The Robert Pack Foundation.
The Robert Pack Foundation will be hosting its biggest celebrity fundraiser, “Pack’s Celebrity Playhouse”, on Friday, June 30, during Essence Festival weekend at Fulton Alley, where celebrity guests will include Master P, Biz Markie, Faith Evans and more.
The Robert Pack Foundation started in 1997. In November 2016, Pack joined forces with New Orleans native and hip-hop mogul, Percy Miller, also known as Master P, who was also his former AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) teammate in the 1980s, to launch their mentoring program derived from The Robert Pack Foundation, Team H.O.P.E. NOLA. This foundation takes 20 at-risk boys between the ages of 12 and 16 from four local schools and instills in them the confidence, courage and determination to explore the world outside of their neighborhoods through academics, sports, business and anything else they wish to accomplish.
H.O.P.E stands for Helping Our Players Excel. Pack’s foundations are more than charity work for him. He sees himself in these young men that he mentors.
“I grew up in a tough neighborhood and new the struggle,” Pack says. “I wanted to inspire others, young men specifically, to do bigger and better things.”
Pack made it his obligation to return to New Orleans after his successful college basketball career at Tyler Junior College and the University of Southern California. He graduated in 1991 with a degree in Sociology. With his academic and athletic achievements, he wanted to share his experiences and knowledge with “kids like myself.” H.O.P.E. also teaches young Black boys how to interact with police. Pack understands and empathizes with adolescents going through social, physical and emotional changes.
He says, “I want to make them more aware to deal with police and have the emotional intelligence to deal with harm’s way.” Pack acknowledged that he didn’t exactly understand the terms “emotional intelligence” and “conflict resolution” as a teen, but that he began to slowly learn over time that there were better ways to resolve problems than with violence. The boys accepted in this program come from low-income, tough areas of New Orleans where Pack feels they can have a “big pull” towards the streets. By strengthening their self-esteem, Pack helps them on the right path.
Getting his mentees to step on college campuses, play sports, make memories, and communicate man to man, prove that Pack’s work with the New Orleans youth will always be necessary.
For more information on Team H.O.P.E. NOLA visit www.teamhopenola.org.
To donate or buy tickets for the “Pack’s Celebrity Playhouse” fundraiser, visit www.therobertpackfoundation.org.