It is always great to hear about college basketball players who volunteer at local schools, visit children in hospitals, and participate in other fantastic community events. At the University of Kentucky, these good deeds are passed down the line and the Wildcats continue to make differences in the lives of children for years.
Kentucky is not only rich in basketball tradition, but has a great history of community service as well. The latest example involves a special 16 year-old boy from Nicholasville, Kentucky, who dreams of becoming Kentucky’s next walk-on. He's also the heart of a foundation that hits home for him and his family.
When he was two years-old, Reese Kemp was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, around the same time he lost his father. Cystic fibrosis is a disease that causes buildup of mucus in the lungs and digestive system -- this disease is life-threatening and currently has no cure.
Kentucky’s basketball players knew they could make a difference. In 2009, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Eric Bledsoe made a visit to Reese after one of his surgeries. Reese immediately connected with the players because of his love for basketball. He then became especially close friends with Wall, who, after declaring for the NBA draft and realizing he would be leaving Lexington, introduced Reese to Terrence Jones. Jones not only started to establish a great friendship with Reese, hanging out and going to movies, but also helped him to start giving back to the community as well.
Even after Wall moved across the country, he still kept in touch with Reese. Wall flew Reese out to Washington to watch a Wizards game for his birthday.
"I have to give a lot of credit to the people that have helped me like Terrence and John and just Eric and DeMarcus because they all lifted my spirits when I was down. It just raised my spirits a lot to where I went from not even wanting to live to loving life," Reese said.
“I wanted to start [Reese’s Resources] because when I first moved to Kentucky from Nebraska, we weren’t in the best of times and a lot of people helped me out. I just wanted to give back to the community because I knew how much they helped me out," Reese said.
After Terrence Jones was drafted, Reese was introduced to Nerlens Noel, whom already knew of Reese, at the Big Blue Madness camp-out. From that moment on, Noel has taken on the role of helping Reese out with anything he needs. A special moment that Reese shared with Nerlens was video chatting with Lane Goodwin, a 13 year-old Kentucky boy who recently passed away from cancer in October. Reese said he and Noel wanted to talk with Lane to try and lift his spirits.
“I know how it feels to be down and you need that one thing just to get you up. That one small thing could be the thing that gets back you on your feet. Hopefully that’s what I’m doing to people, getting them back on their feet,” Reese said.
Reese already has a head-start on next year's team -- he has already linked up with recruits who have recently committed to Kentucky. For example, right before Julius Randle verbally pledged his commitment to the Wildcats, Randle contacted Reese and said he was coming to see him.
Reese's Resources started out by giving away Big Blue Madness tickets to a couple of lucky Kentucky fans, but has grown to become an official organization with even bigger goals. Reese's Resources is currently working on organizing a golf scramble for the summer in which former Kentucky basketball players will come back to participate in. The golf scramble has already expanded to people outside of the Bluegrass State – Dick Vitale recently offered to donate autographed items to help Reese’s Resources.
While the 2012-2013 Wildcats may not be making the same impact in March as some of Calipari’s previous teams, they continue to make a huge difference where it really matters, off the basketball court. And things are just starting to get exciting, with Reese running point.
“It’s pretty awesome to see how I’m changing people’s lives and I love every minute of it,” Reese said.
Yeah, that’s awesome, baby.