Tyreke Evans, New Orleans Pelicans guard, may not be a global icon like Lebron and Kobe, but he is a superstar in his hometown of Chester, PA.
Chester lost its manufacturing jobs in the 1960s, resulting in a huge drop in population and rise in poverty. In 1995, the state designated Chester as a financially distressed municipality. Shortly thereafter, the city’s schools ranked last among the state’s districts.
Evans has been dedicated to providing opportunities for his hometown, especially for at-risk kids, since he became a professional basketball player. Earlier this month, Evans spent a week in Chester, working with VSP Vision (disclosure: I’m a VSP ambassador) to provide free eye care and glasses to children and families in need. During the visit, VSP optometrists performed approximately 150 exams.
The former NBA Rookie of the Year, spent a few moments talking to Mocha Dad about his hometown, being a role model, and the importance of giving back to the community.
Mocha Dad: What was it like to grow up in Chester, PA?
Tyreke Evans: It was pretty rough seeing all of the poverty, but basketball kept me away from a lot of negativity, like drugs and gangs.
MD: How did your parents help to keep you on the right track?
Evans: They did a good job. My mom, dad and brothers kept me out of bad situations, so I had a lot of positive influences and role models in my life. I’m lucky for that.
MD: What is the best advice you’ve ever received from your parents?
Evans: Always respect people and treat people the way you want to be treated. Always work hard and never give up.
MD: Do you feel as you are a role model because of your position as a professional basketball player?
Evans: Yes, because kids look up to me, and they try to do the things that other players and I do. We try to show them that no matter what they do, if they work hard, they can make their dreams come true.
MD: What motivates you to help others?
Evans: Wanting to give back and make a difference. A lot of people when they become successful, they only think about themselves. My brothers and parents taught me to look out for others, and I do that every chance I get. Chester can be a rough place, so being able to give back to the community that raised me is great. It’s a good feeling to make a difference in someone’s life.
MD: Why did you decide to focus on helping residents with eye care?
Evans: Because I grew up in Chester, and I know it’s a very poor area. Since I started working with VSP, I’ve learned a lot about the importance of eye care and how necessary it is to get eye exams every year. It can impact a kid’s ability to learn and also detect signs of medical conditions.
MD: Do you have an example of an experience with one of the residents that has touched you the most?
Evans: When a lady came up and shook my hand and told me how expensive it was for her to get glasses without insurance. She was able to come here for free, and she cried. It was touching and emotional.
MD: How can regular people get involved in their communities to improve eye health?
Evans: Increase awareness about the importance of eye exams – not just for sight reasons but also health reasons. And make sure you get an eye exam every year.
MD: If one of the children from Chester asked you for your secret to success, what would you tell him?
Evans: Work hard.