Every year, JaVale McGee’s foundation, JUGLIFE, puts on a charity softball game - with the proceeds going to support the main thrusts of the organization: providing water to under-developed or needy areas of the world, and educating people on the importance of hydration.
I heard about this last year, and after seeing a video about it, vowed to attend this year if I could. You should too; it promises to be an undeniably fun time. Besides giving you a chance to see some of your favorite Warriors in a more relaxed setting, the proceeds of the event go towards some very worthy causes.
I got the chance to talk to foundation co-founder Kez Reed about the Softball game, the foundation, and a bit of what makes JaVale McGee do all this.
JaVale McGee is, by all accounts, a fun and generous dude. Like many NBA players, he has built a charitable foundation in order to use some of his celebrity status and wealth to help make a difference in the world.
Like many great ideas, it sounds like JUGLIFE was sort of naturally born. Upon getting traded to Denver, McGee got really into hydration - as a way to stay healthy in the high altitude. Kez Reed talked a bit about how he got the idea from carrying around big gallon jugs of water, and just naturally started pushing the message out on social media, where it was quickly adopted and began to take on a life of it’s own. It wasn’t long before he and childhood friend Reed seized the initiative.
McGee was not just struck by the opportunity to proselytize about drinking water (though Reed was quick to ask me how much water I had drank that day), but to serve as a role model. You see numerous athletes hawking sugary drinks like Gatorade or Sprite, but because there’s no money in it, no athletes were really pushing water as the beverage of choice.
So, you could say that JaVale McGee didn’t choose the jug life, the JUGLIFE chose him.
You can read the roster and details from the main site here, and the list of attendees reads like a who’s who of Warriors basketball. From Steph Curry and Kevin Durant (no Klay Thompson, who will be in China) there are 13 active Warriors slated to attend.
The game itself may not even be the main draw here — it’s the bustle of the fair-like atmosphere and people. Reed was effusive in his praise for the amount of extra curricular activities designed to make this event fun for the whole family, from parking lot booths and giveaways to a homerun derby, there will be something for everyone.
The Charity: What it does
When it started, McGee and Reed used their own funds and proceeds from the first charity softball game in Los Angeles to launch water education tours. Those tours have now reached over 10,000 kids, spreading a basic message, but one that is sorely needed:
“People don’t understand how important water is, especially kids in the hood,” McGee said. “I’m from the hood, so we didn’t drink water. We drank Kool-Aid. And the artificial drinks that we get from the 99 cent store that cost 50 cents are all sugar and high fructose syrup. It’s the leading cause of obesity, so water really helps. It helps with your skin, it clears up acne. If you drink a lot of water, it lowers your body weight. There’s a lot of stuff that water can help in health-wise.”
So they do educate, which is important, but they also use the foundation funds to take direct action, from building and maintaining wells in Africa, to somewhere a bit closer to home, JaVale’s hometown of Flint, Michigan.
Flint, as you are hopefully aware, is in the midst of a severe water crisis. It’s a tragic tale of mismanagement, poor planning, and deeply entrenched disregard for the area’s population (which just so happens to be predominantly black and poor). The problem, at it’s most basic level, is that the local government switched to a cheaper water supply but didn’t implement appropriate safeguards to ensure the water was safe. You can read the science behind it here, but the bottom line is that the old pipes corroded, leeching toxic lead into all of the water fed into these communities.
“It’s a billion dollar problem,” Kez Reed says to me over the phone. Then, to reiterate: “Billion, with a ‘B’. So yeah, we are in Flint, and we will be for a while.”
Government has fallen woefully short, but hopefully through programs like the ones that JUGLIFE is pushing for, we can all come together and help pull them out of the danger zone. It’s crazy to me that the foundation does work putting wells in for African villages, but is also prioritizing actions in Michigan. A truly global reach, for a truly global cause.
And all you have to do to support it is come out and watch a softball game, see some of your favorite Warriors try to hit homeruns, and most importantly: stay hydrated.
You can purchase your tickets by clicking on this link here, or go through the main JUGLIFE webpage.
The event in on Saturday, June 23rd at 2 p.m. General admission is $32, or you can get up close to the action if you want to donate a bit more to the cause — both options are available via the links above.