In the tough times that 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic have bestowed upon so many, it is more important than ever for people to come together and assist in picking each other up.
Former Sun and Twitter personality Rex Chapman is teaming up with APS and Phoenix Suns Charities to donate 25,000 face masks to children in schools throughout Arizona, including Beaver Creek, Casa Grande, Cottonwood, Keams Canyon, Parker, Phoenix, Yuma and Winkelman, who may be struggling to purchase masks, which are required to be worn for in-person school.
“We are trying to raise money to outfit kids with masks,” Chapman said. “For every dollar that you donate to Phoenix Suns Charities, my Rex Chapman COVID-19 Relief Fund will match up to $50,000. We are all in this together.”
In collaboration with Maricopa County School District, Phoenix Suns Charities tipped-off the campaign with their first school delivery on Friday. The team plans to distribute a total of 25,000 masks to underserved children throughout the Valley and the state over the coming months.
"Thank you to the Phoenix Suns for this incredible donation and the ongoing support to schools,” Maricopa County School Superintendent Steve Watson said. “We are so appreciative of the effort to encourage health and safety for our kids. This initiative is additional evidence of our community coming together during a challenging time to make great things happen for teachers and students. Thank you for this and all you do for our community!"
The initiative began when Chapman first tipped-off his COVID-19 relief campaign on Twitter. With nearly a million followers, Chapman looked to use his global platform to provide a centralized location for those who were looking to donate in support of those struggling through the pandemic.
“I reached out to one of my good buddies who helps me with my opioid foundation here in Kentucky,” Chapman said. “We were able to raise quite a bit of money through my silly Twitter account for COVID relief. We had dispersed some grants to different places throughout the country and just thought that this would be a really good fit.”
Chapman played four seasons as a member of the Suns from 1996-00, becoming an instant fan favorite after hitting one of the most iconic shots in franchise history. Eager to help, he leaned on the relationships he built over the years within the organization to help assist the community that supported him throughout his career.
“I know there's a big need right now in Phoenix and throughout the state,” Chapman said. “Phoenix is being hit really hard. I reached out to Robert [Sarver], James [Jones], Julie [Fie] and all of my people at the Suns. They were thrilled about partnering and doing something…Robert hit me right back and said, talk with Julie and get the ball rolling. We got with Sarah [Krahenbuhl] and really tried to fast track this thing so that we could try to make a difference here over the next little while.”
Not only did the Suns look to elevate Chapman’s initiative, but they wanted to financially support it as well. In addition to the money raised by Chapman and his Twitter followers, Phoenix Suns Charities and APS, a long-time partner of the team, each pledged support of their own to provide masks for local children throughout Arizona.
“We recognize that many Arizonans, especially children, may be struggling to adjust to the ‘new normal’ brought on by the global pandemic. That’s why we’re doing our part as a local Arizona company, along with Suns Charities, to help ensure that the last thing children have to worry about as they return to in-person school is having a mask to wear,” said Tina Marie Tentori, Director of Community Affairs at APS.
Together, Phoenix Suns Charities, APS and Rex Chapman contributed $100,000 toward the design and manufacturing of these unique, one-of-a-kind masks. Each face covering will be cut and sewn from a surplus of unused Suns warmups, jerseys and other uniforms throughout the years, similar to the ones once worn by Chapman himself.
“I think it's fantastic,” Chapman said. “What an awesome way to help heal the community and bring the community together all at once. I really do commend [The Suns] for putting this together and the thought that has gone into this. This could really help people, for sure.”
In the years between his playing career and becoming a viral Twitter sensation, Chapman faced much adversity throughout his life. Knowing the feeling of being down and having others reach out to assist him in a time of need, Chapman looks at this opportunity as a way to pay it forward.
“Right now, we know we can look around and see so many million Americans unemployed and people are scared. We’re in the middle of a pandemic,” Chapman said. “I've been down and scared before and it's a pretty lonely feeling. I kind of walked through life awfully privileged. I didn't really realize how well I had it. So, I know what it feels like to feel down and desperate and if you can help somebody, I think you should.”
Chapman understands that teamwork is just as important off the court as it is on it and that this is going to take the contributions from everyone in order to reach the ultimate end of the pandemic that has swept through the nation and around the world.
“You're wearing this mask to prevent you from infecting other people,” Chapman said. “It may not keep you from getting it, but it's the ultimate team game here. You've got to be a good teammate. Nobody wants a bad teammate. Everybody's saying put your mask on, please wear your mask. Yes, it's uncomfortable at times. Yes, it kind of sucks at times, but come on, we're in this together and it's got to be a team effort.”
Through APS, Phoenix Suns Charities, the Chapman Foundation and the donations throughout the community, the $100,000 will supply 25,000 Valley youth with face masks to keep them and their loved ones safe as society teams up together to battle the pandemic.
“I'm fired up about it,” Chapman said. “I had four or five of the best years of my career playing for the Suns. I love the community and I'm just happy to help in some little bitty way.”