Fairfax (Los Angeles) coach Harvey Kitani had a player seven years ago who spent most of his four years on his team homeless, living in a multitude of hotels. He’s also coached players who didn’t have a father in their lives, which is why he thought spending the Sunday before Father’s Day with his team feeding the homeless would be a good idea.
“This was our first time we did this as a group with our Fairfax basketball family,” Kitani said. “The idea started with one of our players who has been doing this for two years, Babacar (Thiombane). His mother belongs to a group that does it once or twice a month. In this day and age of all the texting and social media use (by players), for these guys to greet people at the front of the line and greet them with some passion and heart means something.”
The players, who won the Los Angeles City Section title last year and finished 32-3, served food in makeshift tents in Los Angeles’ Skid Row area, which has the city’s largest homeless population. The event was organized by by the Family Bridge Foundation in collaboration with The Senegalese Association of Los Angeles and the IML (Intellect-Mercy-Love) Foundation. Most of the food was cooked by an organization of Sengalese natives who included Thiombane’s mother. In addition, the Fairfax players gave out water bottles and some dental supplies given by a dentist, Brian Hirayama, whom Kitani knows. One of Kitani’s former players, Craig Smith, a former NBA player now playing professionally in Israel, also showed up.
“The group that does this is just amazing because it is a group of people who have come here from Senegal and have brought this tradition with them,” Kitani said. “They are by no means billionaires, yet they come here to help others. They began cooking the food on Saturday. It was really a blessing to be able to help.”
Kitani said he can already see the impact as two of his players, Thiombane and Donald Gipson, are talking about starting a club in school, the Fairfax Closet, which would collect clothing for the homeless.
“We would definitely do this again,” Kitani said. “I think the impact has been significant on our team. I think the players would have a greater appreciation when they see someone who is homeless and holding up a sign asking for assistance.”