LAKEWOOD RANCH — When National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner David Stern called Bob Delaney on Thanksgiving eve last year, the freshly retired referee didn’t think the conversation would circle back to Lakewood Ranch.
After schmoozing about retirement life, Stern offered Delaney a position as the NBA Cares Ambassador, a title the recent Lakewood Ranch Citizen of the Year Sandies award winner wouldn’t accept unless he could tie the work in with the local community.
Delaney will bring the annual NBA Cares Coat Drive to Lakewood Ranch Main Street from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2, to provide winter clothes to the needy, with a focus on Hurricane Sandy victims.
Coats, gloves and scarves collected at the Ed’s Tavern drop-off site will be tallied as they come in, then packed and shipped directly to the NBA Cares headquarters in New York City.
Delaney will collect the items, along with other volunteers, including the Cardinal Mooney High School cheerleaders.
The NBA Cares Coat Drive works in conjunction with the New York Cares Coat Drive and the Jersey Coat Drive. Combined, the participating parties hope to collect 200,000 winter clothes.
“This is an annual event, but Hurricane Sandy made the need greater,” said Delaney, a Paterson, N.J., native. “I’m a Jersey guy, so to see the devastation was heartbreaking. Lakewood Ranch is a great place to get people involved, because people here like to help others and look out for the fellow man.”
Shortly after Hurricane Sandy hit land, Delaney called NBA Cares officials and asked about extending the annual coat drive to Lakewood Ranch. Delaney said Stern and other higher-ups support grassroots efforts.
“Whenever I present ideas or thoughts, they are very supportive,” Delaney said. “I try to understand what they are doing globally and see how I can tie it in locally.”
NBA Cares is the league’s global community outreach initiative that addresses social issues such as education, youth and family development and health. Programs and initiatives are held throughout the world.
“Sports bond us,” Delaney said. “It’s all of our responsibility to help others. It’s our turn now.”
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].