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Memphis Grizzlies in the community
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Grizzlies Foundation works to provide greater impact for Memphis youth

By Bennett Hipp

While the Memphis Grizzlies are preparing to begin their quest for a fifth consecutive playoff berth on the court, the Memphis Grizzlies Charitable Foundation is already busy at work implementing their season initiatives as they aim for another successful year off the court and the in the community.

In fact, the continued success of the Grizzlies on the court has made things easier for the Foundation as they go out into the community to help wherever they can.

“I think one of the reason it makes things much easier is that people want to be involved. It’s easier to get external people involved when the team is going well,” said Grizzlies Foundation Chairman Elliot Perry. “Also, we have a great group of players. There’s no question about that. These players have heart. I’ve been on and around a lot of teams, and I’ve never seen a team that has as many players doing things as we have. “

Since relocating to Memphis in 2001, the Foundation has always made supporting mentoring and youth development programs a priority, donating close to $40 million to help their programs and partners accomplish their goals.

“We give tickets away, we give out resources, and those are the easy parts,” said Perry. “As we were going over things with the Foundation, one of our thoughts was as to how we can really make a tangible difference in the community. Not just money and not just time, but also people. Out of that, we came up with mentoring.”

The Grizzlies Foundation is an official affiliate of MENTOR, the National Mentoring Partnership, providing resources, leadership and in some cases funding to more than 30 local programs in support of 1,000 mentors.

In addition, the Foundation continues its TEAM Mentoring Program, matching nine middle school students with three volunteer adult mentors who have committed to a sustained multi-year mentoring relationship. 

“Our mission is to ensure every child in Memphis has the opportunity to develop to his or her full potential,” said Diane Terrell, executive director of the Grizzlies Foundation and Community Investment. “What distinguishes the Grizzlies Foundation from other professional sports teams’ foundations is both our depth of programming and, the infrastructure we’ve established to ensure those programs are delivering on their promises to students and volunteers.”

Along with their mentoring programs, the Grizzlies Foundation has worked with Memphis Grizzlies controlling owner Robert Pera and the local ownership group to significantly increase the organization’s investment in priority focus areas supported by the Foundation, including increasing the number of high school graduates prepared for success in college or career.

To help accomplish this, Pera recently made a significant contribution to the Grizzlies Foundation and his Ubiquiti Networks company continues to donate resources and equipment to bring wireless access and upgraded technology to schools, community centers, apartments and more across the Memphis area. 

"The Ubiquiti products are proving to be great learning platform for the students engaged in enterprise-class deployments, while also providing significant access enhancements for residents and businesses in the neighborhood,” said Terrell.

Also this season, Pera is donating his personal floor seats next to the Grizzlies bench for select games to reward high-performing students enrolled in STEM programs in the Greater Memphis area.

Along with mentoring and youth development, the Grizzlies Foundation has aimed to boost the health and fitness of Memphis residents with the recently established Riverfront Fitness Trail and Pop-Up Park at Tom Lee Park downtown. 

"The Memphis Grizzlies have been focused on improving the health and fitness of the Memphis community, particularly children, since our very first season,” said Terrell. “The Riverfront Fitness Trail and Pop-Up Park is a fun next step in that journey, but one that remains rooted in our core principles of developing a healthier, more active Memphis for everyone."

As the tip-off of the 2014-15 NBA season grows closer, the focus will shift to the on-court performance of the team. However, the Foundation has worked and continues to work to make sure that the Grizzlies organization is measured by more than just how the team performs in the race for a Western Conference playoff spot. 

“I think you want to build an organization that is quality on the court but also one is that high quality off the court,” said Perry. “That people realize even though there’s a lot of focus on the team, it’s not just about the record when it comes to a professional sports organization. “


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