On the corner of Worth Street and North Prairie Avenue in East Dallas sits a small, tan-colored building that the average person would drive past and think nothing of. But inside is a group of over 150 kids that are discovering their true potential, pursuing their passions and dreaming big.
The Boys & Girls Club of East Dallas is one of 18 Dallas locations across the Metroplex. The East Dallas location serves around 150 kids, all 18 locations combined serve roughly 1,600 kids on a daily basis and over 5,500 club members benefit from the programs and services.
From 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., parents and guardians drop their kids off over the summer. Children ages six to 18 receive strong moral guidance, positive role models and life-changing educational programs at the Boys & Girls Club. The kids are also fed two hot meals a day and take part in numerous field trips across North Texas.
The relationship between the Dallas Mavericks and the Boys & Girls Club dates back many years. But recently, Harrison and Brittany Barnes have taken on a more active role.
“Harrison and Brittany have been angels for us,” Dave Shallenberger, Corporate and Foundations Relations Manager of the Boys & Girls Club said. “They’ve put in a basketball court for us, which is beautiful. They have supported us in so many ways. They have a passion for our mission and our kids. We are so grateful and they have done so much for our kids.”
On Wednesday, the Boys and Girls Club were introduced to more members of the Mavericks family as the Mavs Gaming team visited the East Dallas campus to talk about their careers in the eSports industry and spend time with the kids.
For a generation that is growing up with video games more popular than ever, the eSports industry gives them a dream that previous generations never had.
“We are always having kids think about their future,” Shallenberger said. “We try to grant them exposure in as many different opportunities that are out there. It is great to have the Mavericks come here and show them eSports opportunities.”
For some members of the Mavs Gaming team, they remember growing up in a world where video games were looked down upon and viewed in a negative manner.
“It’s one of the more overlooked parts of being a kid … doing something you like and love,” Devillon said. “Growing up as a kid, I was always taught that video games are bad for you. It’s just wasting time. But things are changing. Especially with these kids growing up in a different age than I did. Why not support the kids that can be in the same spot that I am in 10 years from now?”
With all of the kids packed into a gymnasium, the Mavs Gaming team took the court and introduced themselves, talked about their backgrounds and answered questions from the crowd.
For a team that’s coming off two consecutive losses, this week is important as they head into another tournament with a $150,000 prize pool.
“It’s awesome on two different levels,” head coach Jonah Edwards said of their visit with the kids. “We are focusing on this tournament this week so this is a nice reset to do something for the kids and get our mind off everything. Also, it is just awesome to share our experience with these kids. I would have definitely appreciated something like this when I was their age.”
After the introductions and questions, then came the fun as the kids were split up into two groups. Around half of the kids stayed in the gym to play basketball and other games while the other half hit the video game consoles to play against the pros.
“I feel like they really liked it and I had fun myself,” Seem said. “They had me jumping rope and dancing.”
Seem, JLB, HazzaUK2K and Devillon spent time in the gym with the kids while Dayfri and Dimez took to the controllers to show the kids just how good you have to be to be a professional.
Set up on two big screens, kids took turns playing head-to-head with the top two draft picks for the Mavs. Some of the kids took their opportunity as a chance to talk trash to the Mavs Gaming team, which brought a different type of fun to the whole event.
“Just talking a little trash. They were talking trash to me so I had to fire back,” Dimez said as we both shared a laugh.
A junior in the program, who goes by D.J., couldn’t back up his trash talking to the No. 1 overall pick, but said he’d be ready for the rematch.
“It was awesome. If he comes back next year, I am ready,” D.J. said.
Christian Higgins, an eight grader at Benjamin Franklin Middle School, had the opportunity to face off against both Dayfri and Dimez.
“They are very good,” Higgins said. “I play with my brother sometimes but playing with him is very different.”
When asked who was better between Dayfri and Dimez, Higgins replied with a smile, “Dimez.”
Although it was technically a break from a busy week for Mavs Gaming, Dimez didn’t view it that way. In fact, if it were up to him, he would still be there investing time into each and every kid.
“I guess this is a break, but this is fun man,” Dimez said. “I am the last to leave and the first to show up. They are forcing me to leave. I don’t want to leave. I am having fun with the kids.”
For Dimez specifically, he wanted the kids to see firsthand that your dreams and passions in life can come true. That in life, anything is possible.
“Anything is possible,” Dimez said. “I wanted them to see that and believe. Know that they can do the same.”
Decked out in their new Mavs Gaming gear, the kids took time to wish the players well and thank them for the time and gear. As for the impact the visit had on the kids, Shallenberger said the buzz around Mavs Gaming isn’t going away anytime soon.
“They are going to be talking about this for weeks,” Shallenberger said. “They are going to talk about this for a long, long time.”