When John Calipari accepted the head coaching role with the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team, he not only forever changed the game, but he changed – and continues to change – the community around him for the better.
In his own words from 2014, Coach profoundly recognizes the privilege and adamantly acts on the responsibility of the posi- tion he is in saying he strives “to bring light to the great things that need support from others in our university, others in our state and our city.” With this in mind, each individual involved with his incredible nonprofit organization, The Calipari Foun- dation, is not only giving to others in substantive and quantifi- able ways, but they are giving a new perspective on life to those who receive from and participate in their efforts.
Founded in 2012 by John and Ellen Calipari, The Calipari Foundation has facilitated the involvement in charitable causes throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky and beyond by investing in communities. These communities can be, and are in fact, more than purely geographically based; they are educa- tional, social and spiritual in nature. To date, TCF has awarded more than $2.5 million dollars in grants to over 50 nonprofit organizations though on top of this.
Just recently during the government shutdowns which began on December 22 of 2018, John and Ellen have been very involved with providing financial assistance through The Calipari Foundation in partnership with REACH and Kroger to help support the federal employees and their families who have been furloughed in the Fayette County and Lexington area to the 400 federal employees in Lexington who are being furloughed. In an amazing testimony to the character and true servant heart of the Caliparis, they were hoping to stay anonymous in their heroic acts of charity.
When the news leaked about their involvement, however, Coach simply expressed his empathy on his and his wife’s behalf and said they just had to do something. He explains, “Ellen and I sat there and watched and said, ‘What can we do, how can we be involved in this?’ Our initial thing was, nobody needs to know. We’re going through REACh, which is a nonprofit that we gave the money to and again, my friends at Kroger are helping, so whether it be gas, or the pharmacy, or food, or those items, they can get that. We’re going to try to touch all 400 of the people that are being hurt. They’re from Lexington. They’re our friends. They’re our neighbors. You just want them to know that you care or you understand or you feel.” There is only one thing that Calipari asks those that receive from the financial assistance: “to do what my mother always said and pay it forward.” He continues, “Once you’re made whole and back on good footing, take what we gave you and give it to somebody else.”
In addition to raising funds to give to nonprofit organizations, TCF hopes to raise the public’s level of awareness regarding philanthropy and to encourage members of Kentucky commu- nities to become involved in and support charitable activities, which they have undeniably accomplished through a number of
platforms. While past foundation events have included hosting a comedy show, auctioning autographed Calipari items from his own closet, raffling off Harley-Davidson motorcycles, the most successful TCF fundraising event has been the John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience held annual which features an alumni game with former UK men’s basketball players, and let’s be real for a moment, what Kentucky fan wouldn’t want to be involved with that?
Ever in the charitable mindset, Coach has worked to ensure that the camp is as much about fundraising as it is about fun. Proceeds generated from the fantasy camp go to The Calipari Foundation and then back into the community in the form of grants for both local and national nonprofit groups.
Participants of the John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experi- ence can expect to fulfill their dreams as a Kentucky Wildcat in the exciting, intensive, three-day event that takes place on the University of Kentucky’s campus. Over the course of the experience, campers will be outfitted in official UK gear, they will be trained by current and former college coaches, practice in UK’s elusive and pristine practice facilities and close out their tenure with a championship tournament at Rupp Arena. Most importantly to Coach, is that participants will experience physical and leadership development that they can carry over into their day-to-day lives, one of the The Calipari Foundation’s most esteemed missions.
As Coach Calipari says, “It’s not just about working hard, it’s about working together. You have to care more about the team than you do about yourself.” Let’s rally to help The Calipari Foundation continue making a positive impact in our commu- nity. To get involved, please visit caliparifoundation.org.