Blake puts up points for St. Jude

For Trail Blazers guard Steve Blake, it started in Memphis, Tenn.

Blake had heard the powerful, life-changing stories coming out of St. Jude Children’s Hospital, one of the premier pediatric cancer research centers in the world. But the opportunity to visit the state-of-the-art facility up close and spend time with its young, strong-willed patients showed Blake a much more powerful scene.

Blake visited with children who daily battle with and attempt to overcome cancer and other catastrophic diseases. The welcome home they found inside a cutting-edge hospital that openly shares its research findings — while never refusing treatment due to a lack of medical insurance — made a lasting impression.

“They’re helping kids throughout the world,” Blake said. “And I think that’s a big thing of why it’s so great.”

Moreover, each child’s fight against their life-altering disease reached the innermost part of Blake’s heart. A family member of his had grown up with a brain tumor, later succumbing to the illness at a young age.

“It was tough. I got really close with him,” Blake said. “And it was tough for our family to have to deal with something like that. That always stuck with me.”

Since his initial visit, Blake has made a return trip to St. Jude every chance he gets when the Blazers travel to Memphis to face the Grizzlies. He has also befriended several St. Jude patients. And as his wife, Kristen, has gone from interested to involved, Blake has continued to increase his role in working with the hospital.

“We just think it’s important to be involved,” Blake said. “We’re not doing it to get publicity. We use our status or whatever to try to bring awareness to the kids, not (to) ourselves.”

This year, Blake is one of six NBA athletes promoting the pediatric research hospital by participating in Hoops for St. Jude. The points-based charity program offers fans the ability to team up with players and match donations through a Web site. Each NBA member will donate at least $20,000 to the fight against childhood cancer at the end of the season.

Blake, Pau Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers), Rudy Gay (Memphis), Shane Battier (Houston), Kevin Love (Minnesota), Danny Granger (Indiana) and Denver coach George Karl comprise the Hoops for St. Jude team.

“It’s a good group of guys to follow,” Blake said.

For Tom Penn, Blazers vice president of basketball operations, Blake’s participation falls close to home.

Penn became involved with St. Jude while employed as assistant general manager of the Grizzlies. He has then continued to raise awareness for the hospital during his tenure with the Blazers, and serves on the Board of
Directors and Governors for American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities-St.Jude.

But while Penn actively works behind the scenes to spread the word, he said Blake’s participation in Hoops For St. Jude was a natural process that began and ended with the Portland point guard.

“It’s really meaningful to have all of these players involved,” Penn said. “But with knowing Steve — who he is as a person, and the support he’s given the Children’s Cancer association locally and then St. Jude on a national level — (he’s) really embraced a mission that is near and dear to my heart.”

Did you know ?
Hoops for St. Jude is a charity program that brings together NBA players and fans in the fight against childhood cancer.
Participants include Steve Blake (Portland), Pau Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers), Rudy Gay (Memphis), Shane Battier (Houston), Kevin Love (Minnesota), Danny Granger (Indiana), Denver coach George Karl.
Players will make a donation for each point they score throughout the season, with a minimum donation of $20,000. Fans can match donations on the internet at

If you go
What: Around the World with 
St. Jude charity dinner.
When: April 10. Silent auction at 6 p.m., dinner and live auction at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Pearson Air Museum, 1115 E. 5th St. in Vancouver.

Check the Blazer Banter blog at for notes, news, interviews and videos.

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