A wonderful humanitarian, Charlie Ward is quite possibly one of the most recognizable figures in Florida State football history
Sept. 13, 2003
By Katy Baker, FSU Sports Information
Florida State had so many reasons to be proud of Charlie Ward during his Seminole career, but perhaps fans should be even more proud of what he has accomplished since leaving Tallahassee. Quite possibly one of the most recognizable figures in Florida State football history, Ward, who has played nine seasons with the New York Knicks, is also a well-known face in the world of community service.
Ward has been involved with a variety of foundations and charities throughout both his collegiate and professional careers, including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, HOPE worldwide, the Fannie Mae Foundation and the Giving Back Fund, which assists his aWard Foundation. He has also been a long-standing participant in the Starlight Foundation and the Garden’s Cheering for Children Foundation. Raised in a Christian home, his parents, both teachers, taught Ward the meaning of love and morals, which has followed him into the NBA. He published a book in 1998 called “Winning By His Grace” with assistance from a local publishing company and the FCA.
“It’s basically a testimonial book for everyone, not just kids,” Ward said. “The main point of the book is for people to see that I’m not perfect, but Jesus Christ is.”
Ward, whose parents were his own role models growing up, believes that children grow up to be like their parents; therefore, it is important for them to be positive influences in their child’s life.
Locally in New York, his work with C-Ward’s Vision Valley Ticket Program allows kids from faith-based organizations to attend Knicks’ home games. Over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, Ward served Thanksgiving dinner to more than 700 people at the West Harlem Soup Kitchen and delivered gifts to students at the TASC program in The Bronx.
Alongside his wife Tonja, Ward established the aWard Foundation whose mission is to improve the lives of young people through mentoring and educational programs, as well as sports and Gospel music programs. Partnering with Standards, Inc. and HOPE worldwide, the Foundation has hosted a Summer Youth Initiative called “The Attitude of a Baller,” which is a five-week weekend basketball camp held at the Bonner Center in Harlem, New York. During the five-week camp, several topics are covered including trust, communication, goal-setting, peer pressure, honesty, per-severance, discipline, family, love, relationships, team work and unity. Additionally, the kids learn new basketball skills, attend prayer meetings together, participate in lessons where scriptures are reviewed and new ones discussed, and learn how practical and applicable the Bible is in their daily lives.
In August, the last session of the camp was held and the children performed a special presentation for their parents and demonstrated their newly acquired basketball skills.
Named in 1999 as one of The Sporting News’ “Good Guys In Sports,” Ward seems to always be wherever help is needed in his New York community. The Fannie Mae
Foundation has teamed with the NBA in the last two years to include Ward as a finalist for the Home Team Community Service Award.
In 2003, the aWard Foundation purchased 20 tickets to every Knicks home game for underprivileged children and most recently, Ward helped rebuild homes in Harlem and Brooklyn through the Fannie Mae Foundation and the New York City Housing Partnership.
Only five days after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Ward and teammates Allan Houston and Mark Jackson joined Knicks’ president and general manager Scott Layden in a day-long series of visits to five city fire-houses. In March 2002, Ward and teammate Shandon Anderson each donated $5,000 to the Aviation Volunteer Fire Company, whose only fire truck was damaged during the terrorist attacks.
“When you hear some of these stories the only thing you want to do is help,” Ward said. “These are people who go to work every day and put their lives on the line.”
Another cause Ward is a part of through his team is the “Knicks Reading Zones” pro-gram. This program sends team members out to read and enjoy hands-on activities with local students in surrounding New York areas.
During the past Christmas season, Ward attended a holiday party for youths at New Jersey’s Grace Pentecostal Church, in addition to hosting a similar party at Montefiore Children’s Hospital in The Bronx. While at Montefiore, he handed out presents selected from each child’s own holiday wish list.
Ward’s most recent involvement includes supporting causes such as the Christian Busi-nessman’s Association, the MDA’s Muscle Team Benefit, the First Choice Group and the
Services for the Undeserved benefit dinner.
His charitable grace can be traced back to his days as the starting quarterback for FSU’s historic 1993 national championship team, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this season. He proved to be a truly unique individual by leading his school to its first-ever national title, as well as establishing himself as a leader in the community through his local community service and work with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. As the 1993 Heisman Trophy winner, and the most heralded NCAA college football player ever, Ward was able to balance his time between the gridiron and community.
Whether it is hosting basketball camps for youngsters, serving holiday dinner for the homeless or simply giving kids a chance to attend an NBA game, Ward is certainly a prominent figure in community service. His efforts are done out of pure and simple compassion and concern and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.