Medina resident Lenny Wilkins to be honored as 2013 Seattle-King County First Citizen
December 13, 2012 · 11:52 AM
Medina resident Lenny Wilkins, a legendary athlete who has been called a “world citizen,” and a dedicated advocate for generations of children, will be honored as the 2013 Seattle-King County First Citizen. Wilkens, widely respected as “a quintessential role model,” and the only individual with three inductions into the Basketball Hall of Fame, will be the 75th recipient of the prestigious award.
Wilkens, who formed the foundation in 1998 that bears his name, will be honored at a civic banquet next spring. The not-for-profit event is presented by Seattle KingCounty Realtors.
Lenny Wilkens “is a remarkable, inspiring, giving soul who has helped assure that thousands of kids have the healthcare they need, warm clothing in the winter, books to stimulate their minds, and healthy ways to eat on a tight budget,” said Ben Danielson, MD, medical director, Odessa Brown Children's Clinic.
That clinic is the primary beneficiary of proceeds from foundation fund-raising. Wilkens first visited the clinic, located in the heart of Seattle’s Central District, when he was player-coach of the Seattle SuperSonics.
He was immediately impressed by the founder’s dedication to quality healthcare for children. That visit prompted his first donation – a $10,000 check from his All Star award – and the creation of his foundation. Since then, the Wilkens family has embraced various organizations that provide healthcare and education for children regardless of financial needs.
Calling Wilkens “one of the finest people I have ever known,” KOMO TV weathercaster Steve Pool also described him as “the quintessential role model in this community, exemplifying achievement, integrity and public service.” Pool also referred to Wilkens as one of his dearest friends, “a status that I will always treasure.”
A signature event of the Lenny Wilkens Foundation is its annual Celebrity Classic Weekend consisting of a dinner auction and golf tournament. “Coming together as a community to make sure that our young people have a bright future is the highlight of every year,” Wilkens remarked in a comment about the 2012 event, which marked its 20th anniversary.
In addition to the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, the Lenny Wilkens Foundation provides financial support for neurocognitive testing, currently at all Seattle public middle and high schools. The program involves evaluating, diagnosing and managing concussions so young athletes can recover safely and return to sports.
Commenting on the selection of Wilkens and his 40-year legacy of making a difference for children, Catherine Irby Arnold, vice president at Union Bank, said the 2013 First Citizen is “truly an example of how passion and purpose align for community benefit.”
Danielson also commented on Wilkens’ extensive commitment to worthy causes.
“Lenny Wilkens has been changing the lives of young kids for over four decades. He reminds all of us, through his tireless actions and his inspiring words, that we are all woven into the same fabric of society, and true citizenship means assuring that every child has the chance to laugh, learn, grow and thrive.”
Apart from fundraising events, Wilkens and his family advocate for the well being of children through numerous public appearances. Maintaining a busy, year-round schedule, he hosts corporate team-building workshops, works the sidelines of athletic events, lends his presence at charity fundraisers, and acts as adviser and mentor to NBA and Olympics athletes. He also serves as a college hoops analyst with regular appearances on ROOT Sports.
“Lenny Wilkens is a world citizen who is well grounded in love for his wife, family, close friends and the community," recalled George Northcroft, another member of the foundation board. "He cares very deeply about the less fortunate in our community, especially children. That is why he founded the Lenny Wilkens Foundation.”
Wilkens and his wife, Marilyn, live in Medina and are the parents of three adult children and grandparents of seven. A native of Brooklyn, he enjoyed a 15-year playing career in the NBA, including four seasons as player and player-coach with the Seattle SuperSonics (1969-1972). He coaching career also included nine more years with Seattle (1977-1985).
Wilkens ranks among the all-time leaders in assists, free throws and games played. A nine-time NBA All-Star player, he was named Most Valuable Player in the 1971 All-Star Game. His Hall of Fame inductions include as a player (1989), coach (1998) and assistant coach of the 1992 USA Olympic basketball team. That Olympic team, dubbed the “Dream Team,” was the first American Olympic team to feature active NBA players.
The civic event honoring Lenny Wilkens is tentatively scheduled for June 5 in Seattle. Tickets for the First Citizen banquet and information on sponsorship are available at www.seattlefirstcitizen.org.
The Seattle-King County First Citizen Award and civic banquet, believed to be this region’s oldest such recognition, has no fund-raising expectation, but instead is designed solely as a not-for-profit celebration of community involvement.
Recent past recipients include former Seattle Mariner Jamie Moyer and his wife Karen (2011), U.S. Senator Slade Gorton (2010), retiring Seattle Symphony conductor Gerard Schwartz (2009), and Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen (2008).
The Bellevue-based Seattle KingCounty Realtors is a nonprofit professional trade association whose goals include promoting business practices that reflect a strict code of ethics and supporting policies that preserve and expand real property rights and housing affordability.