MEMPHIS -- Following their shoot around Wednesday afternoon at the FedEx Forum, the Dallas Mavericks took some time from their busy schedule to hop on a bus and visit the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
The Mavs spent over an hour touring the facility, meeting some kids, signing some autographs and taking some photos. They also walked away with the knowledge that perhaps they were able to help some of the children make it through the day just by them showing up and showing that they care.
"It's inspirational to see the spirits of these kids, and it's also uplifting,'' forward Dirk Nowitzki said. "You know the stuff they go through, but the smiles on their face is truly inspirational.
"Hopefully we had them thinking about something else for 30 minutes or whatever and helped in that way, and maybe bring some awareness for this great hospital. It's basically based on donations and it's a great thing they're doing.''
The St. Jude Children's Research Hospital was founded by Danny Thomas. The late actor made sure the facility will house children of every race, creed, color or religion -- free of charge.
The funds come mostly from public donations.
"This is an amazing facility they have here,'' forward Shawn Marion said. "The care and the treatments that they have here and the research that they do is amazing.
"It's a blessing to have people putting in the time and effort to really research and get kids healthy. It speaks for itself.''
In addition to the tour being an eye-opener for the players, Nowitzki said he also learned some things he wasn't aware of.
"They were talking to us a little bit about how during the '80s the survival rate for lukemia was four percent and now it's up to 94 percent,'' Nowitzki said. "So they've been doing some great things here for a long, long time.''
Coach Rick Carlisle explained that a visit to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital here has been on the Mavs' radar for quite some time. The stars just never aligned until Tuesday -- a few hours before the Mavs were slated to play a preseason game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
"This is one of the really special places in our country in what they do for sick kids,'' Carlisle said. "We've been trying to organize this trip for the last couple of years and it hasn't worked out because of scheduling.
"But this is a great time to do it. Especially during preseason. It's just a real good opportunity for us.''
An opportunity guard Devin Harris thoroughly enjoyed.
"Any time we can shed a little light on current events and obviously spend some time with some kids that probably desperately need it, it's good any time we can give free time like that,'' Harris said. "I enjoyed just the informative part, what they're doing, how they're helping and the fact that it's not just only in the US.
"They have 20 other countries that they're assisting hospitals in, so I think it's all great.''
Nowitzki even was speaking some Spanish with one of the patients. Well, at least he tried to.
"One kid was from Puerto Rico and I spoke a little Spanish, but we didn't get very far,'' Nowitzki said while smiling. "We got to, 'How you're doing,' but that's about it.''
-- Dwain Price
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