Celebrities packed a swanky Philadelphia jazz restaurant during the NBA All-Star weekend to help a fellow celebrity auction off some high-price items for a local charitable foundation.
Among the notable personalities giving their time, and in one case their money, to the Arnold Schwarzenegger-headed Inner City Games Foundation were local favorites 76er Aaron McKie and 76ers General Manager Billy King. Both served as chairpersons.
The foundation’s goal is to help inner-city children stay away from drugs and gangs by providing them with activities, such as sports and cultural programs. The Philadelphia chapter is one of 15 affiliates of the Inner City Games Foundation, and Schwarzenegger serves the association as national Chairman.
“If you can give young people something to do after school, that gives them opportunities, [then] underprivileged, maybe not as economically-able, students [are given] a chance to get connected to sports, and that opens their eyes to other things,” said King. “I love Philadelphia. People work hard in blue-collar jobs. It is the perfect city to give back to.”
The $250 a head event was held at Zanzibar Blue last Friday night and some of the items available for bid were an Allen Iverson uniform, the robotic arm from Terminator 2 and a Schwarzenegger-designed Hummer.
McKie, a Temple graduate, felt his time as an Owl provided him with a sense of structure that he could carry into his later years.
“Inner City games will provide this for others,” he said.
With Philadelphia in the national spotlight, Donna Frisbe Greenwood, executive director for Inner City game for Philadelphia, saw a perfect opportunity to collect some money for their cause.
“There are a lot of millionaires in town for the NBA games. Maybe someone will bid really high on the car and raise a lot of money to do after school programs and summer camp programs for Philadelphia kids,” she said.
While Schwarzenegger was detained in Germany for a movie opening and could not attend the event, bad-boy Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban enthusiastically took the reigns.
“I am auctioning off a ‘bad ass’ Hummer, not even in production yet, so the problem is going to be trying not to buy it,” Cuban said.
At one point, actor/comedian Chris Tucker joined Cuban on stage and, amid the basketball royalty — which included Allen Iverson — said he could have played basketballprofessionally, but he chose acting instead.
He joked that he could still take anyone in the room in a one-on-one game, despite his choice of careers.
As the night progressed, crowds of well-dressed bidders moved toward the stage as the auctioning began. The smaller items that were up for bid included tickets to all the All-Star events, which went for $5,500, as well as Iverson’s uniform, which went for $10,000.
The final item for the night was the Hummer, which was expected to bring in at least a $100,000.
“I plan to go up to $60,000. I just hope to generate interest and create a bidding war. All the money is for a good cause,” said Gary Holliwell, a bidder in attendance.
After a small bidding war ensued, Cuban walked away as the proud owner of the Hummer for a sum of $125,000.
Hummer is a national sponsor for Inner City games. They have donated $13 million and 60 cars. In addition, they made the first Hummer available for bid.
Schwarzenegger describes Inner-City Games as a project developed to help young people “develop a strong body and a strong mind.” He said, “Our physical activity and educational programs give these children empowering opportunities and tools for living a better, healthier lifestyle.”
“A lot of people think that all kids need to evolve are books, they forget about competitive sports and the arts, both are vehicles for growing children,” said Russell Simmons, head of Def Jam Records.
Circulating the large interior of the jazz club and finally realizing that months of hard work were coming to a close, Greenwood allowed herself a moment of satisfaction.
“It has been a successful night for all Philadelphia kids,” she said.