LeBron James surprised students at his I PROMISE school in Akron, Ohio, with a $1 million check to build a brand new gym and athletic center for its after-school sports programs.
On May 9, the I Promise students gathered at James’ alma mater, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, for a special meeting. However, the kids had no idea the NBA MVP was standing behind a curtain waiting to present them with a check from the Dick's Sporting Goods Foundation, reported ABC News5 Cleveland.
In a speech to the students, James explained how his high school basketball court was a special place for him after school and during the summer.
“To my kids, this is more than a gym. The Dick’S Sports Matter program is helping us provide even more opportunities. An opportunity to play and learn in a safe place that many don’t have access to. I can’t imagine where my friends and I would be if it weren’t for the coaches and teachers who cared about us and the opportunities we had,” James said.
On behalf I Promise School and the LeBron James Family Foundation, James extended a special message of gratitude for the Dick's Sporting Goods Foundation, who funded the grant.
"It’s an unbelievable day for all of us at the IPS school," James said. "Everyone here that has anything to do with the Dick’s Foundation we just want to say ‘thank you.’ We didn’t set out to have donations like this. We didn’t set out for recognition. We just set out to do something great for our kids."
The Dick's Sporting Goods Foundation said students who are physically active and play sports have higher tests scores, get better grades, are absent less and are more likely to go to college.
James said his success started in the gym and it was an important place for him to have fun with his friends and classmates.
“I don’t want you guys to think that the gym that we’re putting up is just correlated behind sports. It’s also another safe place for our kids. Another place where our faculty members and our teachers and everyone associated the place can still have hands-on with our kids," James said.
"The word sport and sports, in general, can help you get to so many different places in life just because of the camaraderie and brotherhood and sisterhood that you encounter throughout playing sports," he said.
In less than a year of attending IPS, 90 percent of the students are meeting or exceeding individual goals in reading and math and are outpacing peers across the entire Akron district. Many of the students were in the lowest 25th percentile for reading and writing before entering the school.