Growing up in Saginaw, Michigan, and the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, Texas, Kenyon Martin decided to give back to children who lacked the resources he did when he was a child. As a recognizable figure in the NBA, Martin developed the Kenyon Martin Foundation to provide support and career guidance for teenagers who lack a parental influence in their home, as well as providing support for teens who became parents at a young age. With a special focus on the youth in Dallas, the Kenyon Martin Foundation has a summer camp free of charge for young men to learn basketball, life skills and health and Martin gave us insight on his childhood and why you won’t find another non-profit like his in the country.
What made you launch the Kenyon Martin Foundation?
I was working with other charities for a few years and I decided it was time for me to do something positive back in neighborhoods that represent where I grew up, since it’s still close to my heart. In my old neighborhood there was a lot of violence, teenage pregnancy and children growing up without fathers.
Why is it important for you to give back with your Foundation?
Observing where and how I grew up, I knew I wanted to do something positive because of the social issues that affect children in the inner-city. Many people do not pay attention to those issues. For example, a lot of the boys I grew up around didn’t have fathers in their homes, teenage girls would be giving birth at 13 or 14 years old and I lost some friends due to gang violence before I started high school. I thought it was important to focus on a community that was near and dear to my heart. It’s important to do something about highlighting these issues instead of launching initiatives just because you want to have an organization.
What are some success stories from teenagers who have benefited from your organization?
My foundation does things throughout the year so we will have outreach at group homes or we will have a clothes or food drive for shelters and we also have a scholarship drive to help kids go to college. We also provide mentorship for teens as they transition into young adulthood.
What moves me about our foundation and its summer basketball camp is no child has to utilize their family’s financial resources in order to come to our camp. The duration of camp is free for 200-250 kids and we feed them breakfast and lunch. Also, as part of the camp activities, we tutor them on math, teach them life skills, and health issues for free. For me to have the ability to have this for the kids and not have to charge them, that is great.
Where do you envision your foundation in 20 years?
Hopefully launching more scholarship funds, the ability to send people to college, and even creating homes for single parents who cannot afford housing. I want to move the foundation to a place that it is nationally recognized.