CommUNITY Crew Kicks Off Initiative in Mattapan

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MATTAPAN, Mass. – Community and youth involvement have long been a vital component of the Boston Celtics organization. Thursday marked the continuation of that commitment with the launch of the Celtics CommUNITY Crew, in partnership with Arbella Insurance.

This long-term initiative, which includes Celtics staff, coaches, legends, season ticket holders, sponsors and community partners, began at the Mattahunt School and Community Center in Mattapan, Mass. More than 160 volunteers from the Celtics family came together to transform the space for the 700 students that attend the school and community center on a daily basis.

“The Boston Celtics CommUNITY Crew initiative marks a renewal of the Celtics’ longstanding commitment to giving back and improving the communities we serve in impactful ways,” Boston Celtics President Rich Gotham said. “The CommUNITY Crew will allow us to extend the reach and scope of our community efforts through the volunteer involvement of the entire Celtics staff, as well as team partners and season ticketholders.”

It’s easy to overlook how important it is for kids to see inspirational murals on their school walls and a newly painted basketball court outside for recreational purposes. The CommUNITY Crew, however, refuses to overlook those visuals, as such improvements give children a sense of pride and encourage them to succeed in school.

As a result, some of Thursday’s service projects included organizing books and setting up a computer lab nook in the library; painting murals in the community center and playground area; creating a sprinting track; and refurbishing the outdoor basketball court.

Additionally, fourth- and fifth- graders participated in basketball clinics with Celtics coaches, including Armond Hill and Mike Longabardi, and Celtics legend Dana Barros. Barros, who hails from Mattapan, also spoke to an assembly of fourth- and fifth-graders about how important education is to success in life.

“The Celtics do so much in the community,” remarked Barros. “Being a Boston guy, it's a pleasure to be involved with an organization that does so much in my community. I was born and raised in Mattapan. I grew up in this community center. I would be here four to five times a week and this is where I learned how to play basketball. This community center means a lot to me. This is where I figured out what I wanted to do with my life.”

Barros felt that hearing a first-person tale of Mattapan-to-success could leave a lasting impact on the youngsters he spoke to.

“I just tried to explain to the kids here today that they should look at my story,” he said. “I was a kid just like them with big dreams. I didn't have aspirations of making the NBA. I had aspirations of using basketball to get me to where I needed to be. Everyone is great at something and I want them to figure out what their greatness is and pursue that.”

Perhaps the highlight of the students’ day came when Lucky made an appearance. His dunk show created quite a stir and left the small gymnasium sounding like the TD Garden. Before he began his dunk show, he encouraged the students to never give up on their dreams and face their fears, just like he did with an extremely difficult dunk that involved a 360-degree backflip.

Understanding how important the day was to the Mattahunt community, Governor Deval Patrick, Senator Scott Brown and Police Commissioner Ed Davis took some time out of their busy schedules to come to the event and help volunteer.

“Celtics CommUNITY Crew embodies the value of teamwork and turning to each other,” Governor Patrick said. “Through this program, leaders in government, the private sector and volunteer organizations are serving together to make our community a better place for the next generation of leaders.”

As the day drew to a close, Mattahunt Elementary School Principal Ruby Ababio-Fernandez best summarized the effects these updates would have on her students.

“We are beyond elated, extremely grateful and appreciative of the actual transformation,” exclaimed Ababio. “So many different hands came together today to create such an impactful change. We are excited and thankful. There is a positive energy growing among the students and staff around feeling valued by the greater community. This work is amazing!”

With such a successful launch, the Celtics CommUNITY Crew can’t wait for their next stop in the Boston area. Our guess is that the youngsters who will benefit from the CommUNITY Crew’s work can’t wait, either.

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