LOS ANGELES -- Mark Dantzler was just a kid when his father, Lou, bought an abandoned supermarket in South Central Los Angeles for $1 and developed it into the Challengers Boys and Girls Club in 1970.
"I was 6 years old," Mark said. "I've been here all my life."
Lou Dantzler died in 2006, and Mark and his brother Corey took the reins of the Challengers Boys and Girls Club, about a mile south of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The upgrades have been plentiful at the facility over the years, and it’s about to get one more.
During the 2011 NBA All-Star weekend, iHoops held a ceremony to announce--in conjunction with Spalding, the E League (Entertainment League, Hollywood's premiere private celebrity basketball league) and the Ball Up streetball tour--that the outdoor basketball court at Challengers will be refurbished during the spring of 2011.
"They're going to replace the rims, the backboards, the floor, everything," Dantzler said with a grin. "They’re going to redo it all. That's a beautiful thing."
More of the Scenery
Check out the photo slideshow from the iHoops Court Refurbishment ceremony in Los Angeles.
Also, watch this video of the ceremony, produced by Boy and Girls Club member Keith O'Derek/Upfront Productions.
The ceremony on February 20 announcing the project was a star-studded event. It was emceed by television personality Roger Lodge, and a slew of celebrities showed up to offer support, including actress Tia Mowry and actors James Lesure, Brandon Routh and Greg Finley, among others. Also present were the stars of Ball Up, including Grayson “The Professor” Boucher and Robin “Sik Wit It” Kennedy.
From left: Roger Lodge, Mark Dantzler
and Neil Dougherty.
The Challenger Boys and Girls Club, which has seen more than 30,000 kids come through in 43 years, currently is a second home to around 300 children during the school year and about 600 children in the summertime. In addition to the outdoor basketball court, Challengers has four tennis courts and a track, and its building underwent a huge expansion in 1999 from that original abandoned supermarket Lou Dantzler purchased. It now houses a library, an arts-and-crafts room, a computer lab, three game rooms and even a middle school.
About the only thing not in tip-top shape was the outdoor basketball court, which was built by Nike more than a decade ago.
But that's about to change.
"This court should be re-done by the spring for the kids at Challengers to play on," said Neil Dougherty, iHoops' director of programs. "This is something that's important for the community and the people who come through these facilities in a place like Challengers--to continue on, and remember to give back."
After the ceremony wrapped up, the celebrities took time to shoot baskets with the Boys and Girls Club kids. Boucher taught a quick skills clinic on ball handling (he is The Professor, after all) before signing autographs and posing for pictures.
"I didn't realize all the good things we could give back to the youth through our basketball skills," Boucher said. "I was only 18 when I started (streetball). So now it’s come full circle. When I was 23 or 24, I started to realize the importance of giving back and influencing kids in positive ways."
He's not the only one.
"iHoops," Dougherty said, "is so happy to be a part of something like this."