Eric Reynolds’ mother had no idea who Trae Young was. She had to ask her son who he was, but all she knew after reading a letter on Wednesday from RIP Medical Debt was that the Hawks’ star point guard had changed her life.
Reynolds can’t remember the last time his mother was that happy. His father died in February 2018, and it has been a struggle for his family ever since. There was no way of her knowing that when she opened her mail on Wednesday that her financial burden was going to be 100 percent wiped away by a man who she had no idea existed.
“It’s like this sense of impending doom was lifted,” Reynolds said. “I cried for a solid five minutes. It’s a big deal.”
Reynolds reached out to Young on Twitter to thank him but didn’t actually expect him to see his tweet. Young’s father, Ray, saw the message and made sure his son responded to Reynolds. The publicity wasn’t something Reynolds sought. He just wanted to say thank you because Young randomly made a difference in his family’s life.
“A lot of celebrities and athletes talk a lot about wanting to help people, but he genuinely put his money where his mouth was,” Reynolds said.
My first conversation with Young came before the start of the Hawks’ training camp last season. He was leaving a children’s hospital when he called me. This wasn’t an event the Hawks required the team to attend. There was no social media post of his attendance. He was there on his own accord. During our 30-minute conversation, he talked about how he wanted to be a superstar in the NBA and get in the Hall of Fame when his career ended and that he knew that he was the best rookie in his draft class of the players who played in college.
He also talked about how he wanted to leave a lasting impact on the city of Atlanta. Growing up in Norman, Okla., he and his father had season tickets for the Oklahoma City Thunder games from the moment the NBA arrived in Oklahoma City. He was there when the New Orleans Hornets briefly relocated to Oklahoma City after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation and saw Chris Paul’s rookie year and quickly became one of his biggest fans. Young was there when the SuperSonics relocated from Seattle to OKC and saw the careers of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden take off.
None of those players are from Oklahoma and had zero ties there other than the jobs that forced them to move to Oklahoma City, but each of them embraced the city as his own. When Young dreamed about playing in the NBA one day as he watched Thunder games from Section 119, Row R, he also visualized the lives he wanted to touch when he was in the position he’s in now.
“Those were the guys who I looked up to on the court but off of it, too,” Young said. “It’s a big reason why I do a lot of stuff off the court, too.”
So when he saw Reynolds’ message on Twitter, he took time to reflect. Young’s grandfather, Rayford Sr., died when he was 50. Young was only 10. When Young’s father was playing basketball overseas, Young would sit in the living room on his grandfather’s lap and shoot a miniature basketball at the hoop that hung over the door to his bedroom. The vivid memories Young has of his grandfather were in that living room. His grandfather became sick two years prior to his death and attacked his health quickly.
The doctor and hospital bills quickly added up for his grandfather, and he didn’t have the funds to pay for all of the medical care he needed and received. Reynolds’ message of his family’s struggles resonated with Young.
“I actually started feeling a certain way,” Young said. “It made me appreciate what I did and made me appreciate the blessings that I have. It made me kind of tear up a little bit because of my family background and things like that with what they’ve been through. Seeing someone going into the new year a little bit happier and in a positive way definitely made me feel better.”
Young’s donation originally was supposed to be a Christmas present. He, his family, his team of lawyers and those in charge of his foundation talked at the beginning of the season about what he could do to give back to the community around the holidays. He partnered with the Atlanta Boys & Girls Club to do a holiday shopping experience but wanted to do something bigger. His parents told him about RIP Medical Debt because of their own experiences and how even a small donation could make a large impact.
RIP Medical Debt purchases debt bundled in million-dollar portfolios on a secondary market. The debt purchased by the nonprofit normally has passed through several collection agencies for months or years of collection pursuit. On average, the company buys debt for a penny on the dollar. To be eligible to receive assistance from RIP Medical Debt, one of the following must apply: A person must be earning less than two times the federal poverty level, which varies by state and family size, and have out-of-pocket expenses that are 5 percent or more of their annual income or be facing insolvency.
The company works with third-party credit data providers to provide demographic information to help pinpoint people who need relief. Young and his team approached RIP Medical Debt with the specific goal of clearing $1 million of debt in Atlanta. It was just a number that Young randomly threw out with no reason other than he’s 21 and $1 million seemed like a reasonable amount, his dad said. Young’s $10,000 donation cleared out $1,059,186.39 of debt for 590 individuals living in 41 different ZIP codes in Atlanta. Two people living in ZIP code 30363, for example, had an average medical debt of $11,574.55 wiped out. Because the debt was purchased for so little, $10,000 could turn into more than $1 million.
The beneficiaries are completely oblivious to being eligible for assistance until they receive a letter in the mail notifying them that their debt has been cleared. The reason why Young’s donation wasn’t publicized was because personal letters weren’t ready to be mailed. Once the debt is cleared, the nonprofit notifies all of the beneficiaries’ credit companies that the debt has been wiped out so their credit can start to rebuild. Most donations are random, and beneficiaries don’t know who helped them, but Young’s was public at the behest of the nonprofit, according to Young’s father. RIP Medical Debt’s website had a 260 percent spike in traffic on Wednesday. The news was picked up by People.com and CNN, and even presidential candidate Bernie Sanders commented on Young’s donation.
“The last thing Trae wants to do right now is talk politics,” Ray said with a laugh. “That was kind of crazy.”
Ray said he doesn’t think his son fully understands the significance of his donation and probably won’t fully appreciate it until he has a family of his own and additional life experiences. Ray was a medical-device sales representative for more than a decade before his son was drafted. He sold balloons and stents for hearts for patients who had a heart attack or other heart issues. He was in the operating room with surgeons and doctors and saw countless patients who couldn’t afford the products he was selling — let alone the procedure they were about to undergo — and were going to be crippled with debt.
“I had those conversations with Trae, and I don’t know if he fully understands it, but he knows the gist of what I was saying,” Ray said. “There are people who aren’t as blessed as he is and aren’t going to live their lives the way he is, but doing something like this will not only change their lives but it can maybe start something bigger. He just knows that it’s going to change a bunch of lives right now. As he gets older and starts to experience more and live more, he’s going to really see how cool it was to change families’ lives like this.”
Young wants to be an All-Star this year. He has the numbers and is deserving of a spot, even playing for the worst team. Not only has he thought about the basketball reasons for what being an All-Star means for his career, but he has also thought about what the exposure could do for what he wants to accomplish off the court.
“The more impactful I am on the court, the more I can be off the court,” he said. “That’s how I look at it. That’s why I want to be an All-Star. That’s why I want to be one of the best players in the NBA. My platform would get bigger and I will be able to do so much more for my community.”
On Friday night, Ray and his youngest child, Timothy, who’s 9 and a basketball player himself, were in Oklahoma City for Westbrook’s return and first game as an opposing player. The franchise played a tribute video for the Rockets point guard, and he received a rousing ovation from the crowd. He’s beloved in the city because he gave everything he had on the floor and off of it. And one day, Ray hopes his children do the same for their communities.
“That’s what is important to him,” Ray said. “He wants to leave that lasting effect on the community and the city of Atlanta. I don’t know what’s going to happen with Trae with contracts and stuff and if he ever leaves or the Hawks trade him. I do know that the time he’s there is that those (former Thunder) guys have showed him the blueprint of what it’s like to be a professional athlete and make a difference in their community. All of the basketball stuff will happen with how hard you work and how good your team is. He wants to be an All-Star, of course, but seeing his role models do what they did in Oklahoma City is what he wants to do.”
[ 此帖被Threezus在2020-01-14 14:25修改 ]