CJ McCollum provides resources, space for kids to accomplish dreams with new Dream Center

McCollum's third Dream Center, first in Louisiana, is housed in Westbank Boys and Girls Club

By Andrew Lang

New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum has been able to accomplish many of his dreams in life from attending college on an athletic scholarship to becoming a professional athlete as well as a father and husband.

Now, he hopes to provide the tools for others to accomplish their dreams too.

On Thursday, March 14, McCollum hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony for the CJ McCollum Dream Center in the Westbank Boys and Girls Club, his third dream center and first in Louisiana.

McCollum said he hopes the Dream Center will provide the tools for kids to accomplish their dreams and to help give even more ambitious ones.

“I think for us, we wanted to create a space where kids can dream bigger than what they are seeing and I think the Dream Center allows us to accomplish that goal,” McCollum said.

McCollum said education became his focus for community work because he received educational opportunities he otherwise would not have due to his basketball talent.

“I think education is the key,” McCollum said. “I firmly believe that. The more you know, the more access you have, the better off you are down the road and I think it starts with books, it starts with literature, it starts with preparation and just getting the kids ready for what’s ahead, because it’s already hard enough to grow up in society, especially in the inner city, but if you can have safe spaces and the resources, I think the sky is the limit for a lot of these kids.”

McCollum and several partners provided a plethora of those resources at the Dream Center including 70 laptops and tablets from the Gayle & Tom Benson Charitable Foundation, a smart board, 3D printer, and laser printer from Cox Communications, virtual reality headsets from Meta, and pairs of headphones from Bose. The Dream Center houses a new library with over 1,000 books from Baldwin & Co. Books as well as five outdoor little free libraries and vegetable gardens.

McCollum witnessed kids experiencing the new space for the first time as they took in the virtual reality headsets, books, and podcasting equipment.

“I think that’s what makes it all worth it, the joy I get from their happiness, them being appreciative of the time, the energy, the money that goes into something like this and then understanding that they are actually going to utilize it,” he said.

CJ McCollum at the grand opening of the CJ McCollum Dream Center

McCollum partnered with local artists to help beautify the space as Brandan “BMike” Odums and his team from the Eternal Seeds organization painted a new mural along the walls of the basketball court while Keith Eccles is leading plans to decorate the little free libraries.

AmeriCorps volunteers from Habitat for Humanity New Orleans contributed to the construction of the new vegetable garden.

Angel Nelson, president and chief executive officer of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Louisiana, said McCollum reached out to them about creating a Dream Center and gathered input from the kids about what they would want out of it.

“Long story short, he delivered,” Nelson said. “What you see is what the kids asked and he delivered, but this isn’t the only thing he’s done with us. He has given kids Christmas gifts. He’s come here to visit with them. He really took the time to get to know our kids and to show them that ‘Hey look. I’m here for you, I support you, I care about you’ and their futures.”

Nelson said McCollum went “above and beyond” what they asked of him.

“He was supposed to just do upstairs,” Nelson said. "He did more than that. He did outside, he did the mural, he fixed some of the issues that we were having with the building.”

This is not McCollum’s only foray into boosting educational opportunities for the youth of New Orleans as he previously announced this year his McCollum Scholars program providing $1 million in scholarships for New Orleans students.

Several members of the Pelicans organization were in attendance including Governor Gayle Benson, Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin, Vice President of Basketball Operations and Team Development Swin Cash and forward Matt Ryan.

This project had been in development since McCollum was first traded to New Orleans back in 2022. He said he wanted to accomplish things off the court for the community since he arrived.

“I think it’s important that they understand that I’m serious about my commitment to New Orleans,” he said. “I’m serious about my commitment to this city and I think it shows in the work that I’ve consistently done here, the time that I’ve consistently put in, how we’ve been thoughtful about the approach ever since the beginning.”

McCollum said his youth was shaped in part by the time he spent at the Boys and Girls Club in his hometown of Canton, Ohio, which played a part in all the dreams he’s accomplished in his life.

"I believe in the power of dreams and the importance of providing opportunities for young people to pursue them,” McCollum stated. “The CJ McCollum Dream Center is more than just a physical space — it's a symbol of hope and possibility for generations to come."