The 12th annual Zo’s Summer Groove weekend opened with extravagant events and celebrity guests; from singer Queen Latifah at the charity gala to comedian Chris Tucker headlining the annual comedy show. The star-studded weekend highlighted the best of the best and included the All-Star basketball game with special appearances by LeBron James, Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem and many others. However, beyond the lights, the glamour, and the celebrities is an intense passion for positive change in a deserving community.
NBA Miami Heat player Alonzo Mourning created the Zo’s Summer Groove weekend through the Alonzo Mourning Charities Foundation (AMCF) to raise money for and bring awareness to the declining educational and social conditions of youth in Miami Dade County.
“We’re dealing with a true epidemic. Kids are dropping out of school. In Miami Dade County alone, over 54 percent of our students do not graduate from high school and we have to change that,” Mourning told the South Florida Times.
In an effort to encourage the educational development of youth in low socio-economic communities, Mourning founded the Alonzo Mourning Charities in 1997. To date, the foundation has raised more than $6.5 million dollars, which allow initiatives such as the Youth Basketball Clinics and The Youth Summit to continue to reach out to young people on the local level. Mourning was also instrumental in the creation of the Overtown Youth Center, which provides social, academic and recreational opportunities for that neighborhood’s youth.
Actress Gabrielle Union realizes the importance of giving back. It’s that realization that got her involved with Honey Shine Mentoring, an AMCF program founded and led by Tracy Wilson Mourning, Alonzo’s wife.
“It’s so important for me to be supportive. Our communities are so under serviced and we have no voice, so I try to find out what those issues are that our young people are facing and try to help out the best I can,” Union said.
Along with the development of youth programs, The Zo’s Summer Groove weekend was also an opportunity for the foundation to provide awareness and expand its financial base. This year proved to be very significant, with an increased amount of support from Mourning’s celebrity friends – as well as the ultimate tag team partnership with teammate Dwyane Wade. The Mourning/Wade collaboration is important to both sports stars.
“I am excited that he (Mourning) brought me on board with him. Seeing what Alonzo is doing in the community is just unbelievable. Both of us share the same vision and the same passion for making some type of positive impact in the community,” Wade said.
Wade is no stranger to giving back. He founded the Wade’s World Foundation in 2003 to provide support to community-based organizations that promote education, health and social skills for at-risk children.
“I can’t just let basketball define who I am and what I am supposed to become,” Wade explained.
In the near future, Wade said he looks forward to teaming up with Mourning on different projects in Miami and continuing to provide more opportunities for youth in education around the city.
As Zo’s Summer Groove weekend closed out and the guests and celebrities departed, the need to positively change the lives of today’s youth lingered. It’s a need that The Alonzo Mourning Charities seeks to address via its year round commitment to enhancing the lives of young people in the Miami-Dade community.
“We try to do as much as we can to provide educational opportunities for young kids. If you care about children and you care about kids succeeding in life, then support Alonzo Mourning Charities,” Mourning said.
Photo by Khary Bruyning. Dwyane Wade, left, and Alonzo Mourning, right.