Dreams Do Come True

Approximately twenty less fortunate children from New York’s The Life Center, a family homeless shelter, had the experience of a lifetime on August 18, as they visited the Madison Square Garden Training Center to partake in the Liberty's annual "Dream Day."

Hosted with the Garden of Dreams Foundation, the Liberty roster and coaches spent over two hours in a successful effort to brighten the day of the children from The Life Center. The day began with a bar-b-que feast, and continued afterwards as the players, coaches and mascot Maddie played countless outdoor games with the children such as basketball, hoola hooping, and much more, including by far the most popular event, the inflatable Rangers Bounce House.

“It’s just a wonderful day,” said forward Tiffany Jackson. “The kids came out to have fun and get away from all their problems, and to be able to help them in that way, it’s a great feeling.  We always want to help, and it means a lot that as a team, we get this sense of fulfillment out of what we did with these kids today. Everybody here wants to give back, and everybody had a good time and enjoyed themselves.”

The Garden of Dreams is a non profit charity that works closely with all areas of Madison Square Garden, including the Liberty, Knicks, Rangers, MSG Entertainment, MSG Media and fuse to "make dreams come true for kids in crisis." The Life Center, a partner organization of the Garden of Dreams, has the mission to prepare participants for the world of work and for permanent housing, in addition to enhancing their ability to live and grow independently.

“It’s always good to help out people less fortunate,” said guard Lisa Willis . “We are obviously in a blessed position to even be here, and they are at the point where whatever we tell them can be golden, so why not use that opportunity to brighten their day, even if it’s just a little?”

Point guard Loree Moore, who had a blast jumping around like a child herself throughout the course of the afternoon, agreed wholeheartedly. “Words really don’t do justice to what it’s like to give these children the chance to be the star for a day,” said Moore. “To have the opportunity to give back and show them that even though this is part of the responsibility of being a professional athlete, it’s something we enjoy doing and that we have a good time with."

"There is no other way we’d like to spend our day than what we are doing right now," she continued. "I mean, I had just as much fun in the Bounce House as the rest of the kids!”

When the children arrived at the Training Center and were introduced to the players, they each had an ear to ear grin on their face. Within minutes, they were dancing with their new heroes, hugging one another and taking piggy back rides up and down the giant grass hills.

After an hour of playing games outside, the kids cooled off by heading into the Liberty locker room to receive an authentic, personalized Liberty jersey from the coaching staff and players which hung from the lockers. Afterwards, The Life Center children entered the gym, where the Liberty's public address announcer individually welcomed each of them. Each child ran onto the court through a Liberty player fan tunnel.

The children were then treated to a performance by the Liberty Torch Patrol, before receiving autographs from their new friends and finally slowly said their tearful goodbyes.

“We knew how much today would mean [to the kids], but to see how excited they were, it exceeded what I thought it would be like.” said rookie Leilani Mitchell , experiencing her inaugural Dream Day in her first season with the Liberty. “It was a great experience for both them and us. If you could brighten someone’s day even just a little, that just makes your own day that much better too. Our team, we like to get out in the community as much as we can and take action, and today is as special as anything I’ve been a part of since I got here.”

Janel McCarville, one of the most popular players on the afternoon, shared similar sentiments. “It feels good to be able to get some of these kids’ minds off what might be troubling them,” said McCarville. “We know they have some things going on in their lives that might not be the best, but for them to come out and be around us, and be around professional athletes and see what we do, it may not seem like much, but you can see in their eyes what a day like today can do for some people. We are just mingling and having fun, trying to cheer everybody up, and it’s just been a great time.”

The Dream Day was latest example of the Garden of Dreams partnering with a local organization to help local children in the tri-state area who are suffering from devastating illness, homelessness, abuse, hunger, extreme poverty and tragedy.

“The day really just kept getting better and better,” said Willis. “The kids, they didn’t know what to expect really, so it was special right from the beginning. When we ate together at the bar-b-que, they had the time of their lives asking tons of questions. Then, when we took the group picture, that right there gave me such a chilling feeling. And then those games we played where we all just had nonstop smiles on our faces, they had a blast. For them to come to the locker room and have a jersey with their own name on the back, a lot of them were at a loss for words. And finally when we came to the gym and they announced their name and they ran through the whole team slapping them five in the tunnel, that made each kid feel special."

"It was just a fantastic day, and I’m proud I was a part of it.”

By Ricky Henne