A couple Friday nights ago I found myself walking onto the floor of the Palace of Auburn Hills, the cavernous arena where the NBA team Detroit Pistons plays their home basketball games. I was joining the Detroit Piston’s Nothing But Nets night. In a special section, the Pistons were donating $10 of every ticket purchased to send a net to a child in sub-Saharan Africa. Growing up in the Detroit area, the Pistons were my favorite team as they won consecutive NBA titles and played before raucous capacity crowds. So, I am especially proud to support athletes like Anthony Tolliver and Steve Blake who are raising awareness about a preventable disease like malaria, by donating bed nets for their basketball shots. In addition, Nothing But Nets was honoring my work in leading the Night of Nets program at Cornerstone University on court, ahead of the game. Similar to the Pistons, we too invite our fellow students, parents, and soccer fans to pay an admission price or purchase a t-shirt when they came to watch us play. Those funds are then donated to several organizations like Nothing But Nets to provide a bed net for a family in sub-Saharan Africa.
Our idea for the Night of Nets program originated in 2012 when I was with several soccer players from Cornerstone University. We heard the story of a mom whose 15 month old son Alex died in her arms walking to a medical clinic because he had been bitten by a mosquito one night while sleeping in their one bedroom hut during the rainy season in Zambia. That story of deep personal loss and grief from a preventable disease left us with a need to respond.
We quickly discovered that an insecticide treated bed net could do something brilliant and significant when people were able to sleep under them at night. And this powerful bed net only cost what sports fans would normally pay to watch a college game.
Since the Night of Nets program began, over 20,000 families have received a bed net through funds raised at athletic contests. We’ve also seen families live differently on our regular trips to Zambia because they have access to these life-saving nets.
Growing up, I would have thought that the path to the Palace floor would have been through extraordinary play, brilliant business acumen, or possessing incredible personal wealth. Yet my path first went to a dusty village road in Zambia before heading to a place filled with bright lights, well dressed people, and men much, much taller than me.