Growing up, Steve Smith Sr. was an angel kid, which meant donors to such organizations as the Salvation Army helped provide Smith and his family with Christmas gifts and other support.
Now after a successful 16-year NFL career, the Waxhaw resident has made it a mission to give back to the Charlotte region that he calls home. Smith, along with Dick’s Sporting Goods, provided 10 students from LifeHoops with a shopping spree Dec. 12 at Dick’s Sporting Goods.
LifeHoops is a Charlotte-based nonprofit founded by Red Ventures CEO Ric Elias in 2017. It combines basketball, mentorship and academics to empower students to become leaders in their communities. In partnership with the Charlotte YMCA, LifeHoops looks to create a safe after-school environment where students can accelerate their academic achievements, learn what it means to be a part of a team and enhance their basketball skills under the guidance of the organization’s coaching staff.
Dick’s provided each student with a $100 gift card. Smith and his Smith Family Foundation gave the students another $100 for their shopping spree.
Smith played for the Carolina Panthers for 13 seasons and has been a resident of the region for 19 years. He is the Panthers’ all-time leader in total touchdowns (67), receptions (836) and receiving yards (12,197).
Smith said his goal is to give back to a community that has been so good to him and his family.
“The only reason I was able to go to college was because someone else invested in me,” Smith said. “I had a (football) scholarship to go to Utah and because of that, I got to go to the University of Utah and that allowed me to get drafted. This is exactly what my family does. This is who we are. It is something I believe in and it is something I have done. This isn’t an event, this is a lifestyle for me. This is our community, and this community gave me something. I am ingrained in this community.”
After addressing the kids from LifeHoops, Smith, who helped the students with their shopping, gave the extra $100 to each student because he wanted to make sure the students were able to buy everything they needed. He also did it to make an impression on the students.
“I understand it is the holiday season and it is about giving,” Smith said. “I have been given something. To much is given, much is expected. These kids didn’t expect this, but I also know that Dick’s is a fine sporting goods store. These are growing boys. Look at their feet, they have some big feet. At the end of day, some of these kids are going to do something special. I want this moment to speak to them so they can do the same. It’s about paying it forward.”
Nick Trull, operations director for LifeHoops said the shopping spree and meeting Smith was a “big day” for the students.
“We have five locations across Charlotte,” Trull said. “We have a staff of 10 guys to help push our mission of building pillars of respect, education and basketball or soccer. We engage with kids that want to get better. Steve can really plug in with these kids because of where he came from.”
Smith, and his wife, Angie, formed their foundation in 2013, and it is dedicated to providing hope and inspiration to people in need. Part of the foundation is the Smith Family Wellness Center in Charlotte, which is a clinic that has provided nearly 4,000 free medical and counseling appointments.
The foundation has many events throughout the year, including the Strikeout Domestic Violence fundraiser, which is a bowling event to raise money to help end domestic violence.
“This is one of the many different events that I am doing,” Smith said. “This is the place where I live. This is my home, this is where my kids are being raised. This is who I am, and I enjoy doing it.”
Smith and his family are also helping angel tree kids this Christmas season.
“We have adopted two or three families the same size that my family is,” Smith said.