During training camp, Los Angeles Lakers players Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom, Luke Walton and Brian Cook, along with the Laker Girls, stopped by the Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii’s Hale Pono Clubhouse on Tuesday, October 9, to dedicate the newest Lakers Reading Room.  This is the team’s second Lakers Reading Room in Hawaii and ninth overall. The first Lakers Reading Room in Oahu was dedicated at the Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii’s Spalding Clubhouse during the team’s last visit in 2005.

The day began with a Read to Achieve pep rally in the gymnasium with 100 students from Kaimiloa Elementary School and distinguished guests, including Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii Executive Director David Nakada, Senator Will Espero, Representative Kimberly Pine and City Councilman Todd Apo.  Derek Fisher encouraged the students to take advantage of the programs and opportunities offered by the Boys & Girls Club, and spoke to them about the importance of staying in school and working hard to follow their dreams.  The students recited the Read to Achieve Pledge with the Lakers players and the Laker Girls, promising to continue reading on their own and to practice good study habits.

In 2005, the Lakers Youth Foundation presented the Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii with a check for $15,000 to fund the creation of the Spalding Clubhouse’s Lakers Reading Room and to support the Club’s literacy programs.  The Foundation committed the same amount this year, but surprised everyone when a check for $25,000 was presented to David Nakada and the Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii at the pep rally!  The Lakers Youth Foundation, greatly impressed by the Club’s programs and services during the visit, shared the staff’s vision and commitment to provide the youth of Hawaii with a safe afterschool place that offered educational, athletic and recreational opportunities.  The contribution will be used to expand the Lakers Read to Achieve program as well as develop a Junior Lakers Youth Basketball program at the Club in the near future.

The Lakers players, Laker Girls, students and invited guests participated in the pulling of the Maile Lei, a Hawaiian tradition, to unveil the new Lakers Reading Room.  Students were thrilled to see their old room transformed into the Lakers colors of purple and gold and decorated with new furniture, new carpet, new children’s books and framed photos of their favorite Lakers players in action.  A ceiling mounted projector and screen were also installed in the room to allow the Hale Pono Clubhouse to host movie nights and couple book readings with movie screenings.

The children immediately took advantage of the new Lakers Reading Room and gathered around the players and Laker Girls to hear a special reading of The Watercolor Cat, by local Hawaiian artist Peggy Chun and author Shelly Mecum.  The Watercolor Cat was selected for the read aloud because it is an inspiring story about courage, perseverance and friendship that resonates with readers of all ages.  The book features some of Peggy’s most colorful and well-known watercolors and is told through the eyes of her beloved cat, Boo.  What made the event more special was that Peggy and Shelly were able to join the students and Lakers in the Lakers Reading Room to hear their book being read aloud! 

In 2002, Peggy was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  The disease has left Peggy fully paralyzed, but she refused to let it stop her from continuing her passion to paint.  When Peggy could no longer paint with her right hand, she taught herself how to paint with her left hand.  When she lost movement in her arms, she taught herself how to paint with her teeth.    Only Peggy’s eye movement is unaffected by the disease now.  Yet, Peggy is still able to create images with the aid of a new computer system named ERICA. 

At the end of the reading of The Watercolor Cat, it was clear that everyone inside the Lakers Reading Room was deeply moved and inspired by Peggy’s story of courage and determination to overcome the challenges she faced as a result of living with ALS.  The Lakers presented the students with their own copy of the book and a Lakers gift bag filled with goodies and school supplies.  With the help of a few “Peg’s Legs” friends, Peggy and Shelly also gave each student a print of one of Peggy’s watercolor paintings and a 2008 calendar with a collection of Peggy’s illustrations.  To learn more about Peggy Chun and her artwork, please visit her website at www.peggychun.com

The mission of the NBA’s Read to Achieve program is to build a lifelong love of reading in young people, promote the value of reading and online literacy, and encourage families and adults to read regularly with young children. The Lakers strive to accomplish this goal by building Lakers Reading and Learning Centers, conducting Reading Time-Outs, organizing our annual Lakers Reading Challenge, and holding book drives on game nights.

Lakers players, Laker Girls and club members unveil the Lakers Reading Room by pulling Maile Lei, a Hawaiian tradition.

Brian Cook and Lamar Odom show students the colorful watercolors by artist Peggy Chun in the book The Watercolor Cat.

The Lakers players, Laker Girls and students from Ilima Middle School pose for a group photo

The Lakers players pose with the authors of The Watercolor Cat, Peggy Chun (center) and Shelly Mecum (right).