Hoops And Dreams

By: Lorne Chan Spurs.com

Since arriving in America as a refugee from Democratic Republic of Congo, Laurence Uwtonze is always amazed by the open hearts of everyone she meets in her new home.

She arrived through Catholic Charities less than two years ago and has adjusted to life in Texas and life in the fifth grade. But she wasn’t the biggest fan of the old bunk and lumpy mattress she inherited.

That all changed on Sunday, when she walked into the AT&T Center and didn’t see any basketballs, but saw a brand new bed with her name on it.

Through Ashley Furniture’s Hope to Dream program, 50 children between ages 3 and 16 received their own mattresses, comforters, sheets and pillows on Sunday, with the beds waiting for them on the AT&T Center court.

Many of the kids were sleeping on couches or sharing beds with siblings. Almost all of the kids will sleep on a new mattress for the first time.

“I love it,” Uwtonze said. “I can’t believe it’s my bed.”

Danny Green and Matt Bonner helped out with the celebration, as the 50 children also got to shoot hoops on the court and received a locker room tour.

Uwtonze was one of six refugees to receive new beds on Sunday. She’s quickly learned English with help through Catholic Charities’ Refugee School Impact Program (SIP), which provides tutoring, and instruction to school-aged refugee children who have little-to-no formal education.

The program received a grant from Silver & Black Give Back’s Team Up Challenge this year, all children who received beds on Sunday have participated in or are affiliated with one of SBGB’s programs.

 “To think that some of these kids have never had their own bed before is kind of crazy,” Green said. “I couldn’t imagine life without my own bed. That’s one of those things that we take for granted. It’s such a great thing that Ashley has provided this for these kids. It’s life-changing.”

Ashley’s Hope to Dream program has given out more than 4,000 beds since the program began in 2010. Ashley HomeStores donates $5 for every mattress sold to provide beds to children in need. Tempur-Pedic provided the mattresses and a teddy bear, Bedgear pitched in the pillows and mattress protectors.

Michael Kirby, a national account director for Tempur-Sealy, said he will never tire of the looks on faces when they see a new bed. Kirby said beds are often one of the last things families in need worry about when they’re struggling to pay bills or put food on the table.

Children can be nominated for the program by visiting: https://www.ashleyfurniturehomestore.com/en/A-Hope-To-Dream

“We get stories about kids sleeping on the floor or two to three to a bed, and it’s heartbreaking,” Jennifer Casanova, a board member for Ashley HomeStores’ Furnishing Dreams. “A good night’s sleep can shape their days. It can affect their posture and their physical growth and their attentiveness and their education. Most of us take that for granted.”

The AT&T Center court returned to its intended use on Monday night when LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers came to town. By then, beds were delivered to their new homes. Some of the kids might have tried to stay awake for the game, but if the pajama party was any indication, most of them couldn’t wait for a chance to dream.

lchan@attcenter.com