(NEW YORK, NY) -- The Garden of Dreams Foundation awarded Knicks Legend John Starks the 2023 Garden of Dreams Hero Award during the final regular season game at Madison Square Garden. Established in 2009, the annual Hero Award honors organizations or individuals that embody the spirit of the Garden of Dreams Foundation through an active and ongoing dedication to positively impacting the lives of young people facing obstacles, while serving as a driving force and inspiration for others. Starks has not only exemplified but exceeded these values through years of going above and beyond in his caring, gracious and charitable work with the Foundation. Knicks alumni Allan Houston and Garden of Dreams Vice Chairman Gary Fuhrman presented Starks with the award on the court at Madison Square Garden during the Knicks game on Sunday, April 9th.
Over the many years Starks has been involved with the Foundation, he has been tremendously generous with his time and commitment, demonstrating consistent, unwavering support for the children and families it serves. Since the inception of the Foundation, Starks has participated in and attended countless events and experiences on a regular basis, where he has met and positively impacted numerous young people and their families. As an active Garden of Dreams Board Member, Starks attends every Garden of Dreams Knicks-related community event, including all Season of Giving events in the months of November and December as well as the annual Holiday Dinner with the Department of Homeless Services for over 300 families.
“The Garden of Dreams Foundation has been a special part of my life for many years, and the relationships I have built with children and families through it mean the world to me,” said Starks. “I’m so appreciative of the Foundation for all that it does, and it is a great honor it is to be selected for this year’s Garden of Dreams Hero Award.”
An ambassador for the Garden of Dreams Foundation as well, Starks speaks regularly at fundraising events that benefit the Foundation, and advocates for its annual scholarship program – which has awarded millions of dollars in scholarships to students for colleges and universities since it began in 2015. Starks actively participates in the scholarship program, reading applications, working with the board to select scholars, and participating in surprising the recipients. In addition, he visits and spends time with young people at Knicks games, has recorded hundreds of videos to brighten the days of children battling life-threatening illnesses and those who have recently suffered personal loss, and attends basketball clinics with youth in their communities, meeting them and teaching them the fundamentals of basketball. Starks has fulfilled dozens of wishes and has stayed present and involved in the personal lives of many of the Foundation’s children and their families.
A particularly notable example of Starks remaining a part of a family’s personal life is with Staten Island’s Perez family. In 2012, Starks surprised young Knicks fan Nicholas Perez, who was battling a life-threatening illness, with a custom Knicks basement, complete with a court, locker room and Knicks themed items. Starks has since become exceptionally close with the family, maintaining a special relationship with them over the years. He provided them with financial and material support after Nicholas passed, stays in regular communication with them and even attends their family gatherings.
“It is an absolute honor to present John Starks with the 2023 Garden of Dreams Hero Award,” said Maggie Jacobs, executive director, Garden of Dreams Foundation. “He could not be more deserving of the Award as an integral member of the Foundation on numerous levels. Without him, the Foundation would not reach nearly as many lives as it has thus far. The time and dedication that John has made time and time again is invaluable and has touched the lives of so many young people.”
The Garden of Dreams Hero Award was established in 2009. Past recipients of the award include sports radio personalities Mike Francesa and Chris Russo; Rangers greats Adam Graves and Henrik Lundqvist; model/actor Damaris Lewis; NY Knicks broadcaster and Today Show contributor Jill Martin; legendary artist and talent show creative director Darryl "DMC" McDaniels; legendary actor and comedian Tracy Morgan; the band O.A.R. and its frontman Marc Roberge; Michael Roberts, the former director of Garden of Dreams partner organization Children’s Aid; Emmy Award-winning producer Rory Rosegarten; and actor Steve Schirippa.
In partnership with MSG Entertainment and MSG Sports, the Garden of Dreams Foundation, a non-profit charity, provides young people in our communities with life-changing access to educational and skills opportunities, mentoring programs and memorable experiences that enhance their lives, help shape their futures and create lasting joy. The Foundation focuses on young people facing illness or financial challenges, as well as children of uniformed personnel who have been lost or injured while serving our communities. Since its inception in 2006, the Garden of Dreams Foundation has impacted more than 400,000 young people and their families.
The Garden of Dreams Foundation is a non-profit charity dedicated to bringing life-changing opportunities to young people in need. In partnership with MSG Entertainment and MSG Sports – including the Knicks, Rangers, Rockettes, Westchester Knicks, famed showplaces, TAO Group Hospitality, and two sports and entertainment television networks – the Garden of Dreams brings young people together to raise their spirits, build resilience, and provide networking and educational opportunities through MSG’s power of community building. All of the Foundation’s activities are driven by four guiding principles – Education, Inspiration, Grants, and Moments of Joy – and target young people facing illness or financial challenges, as well as children of uniformed personnel who have been lost or injured while serving our communities. Since its inception in 2006, the Garden of Dreams Foundation has impacted more than 400,000 young people and their families.