Detlef Schrempf earns award for charitable work
More than a decade after his career in the NBA ended, the former Sonics' foundation is going strong.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Detlef Schrempf admits that he and wife Mari were "young and dumb" when they started the foundation that bears the name of the former Sonics standout.
They wanted to help children, so while Schrempf, a 16-year NBA veteran, played in Indiana, he organized a charity camp for inner-city kids.
When the Sonics traded for the 6-foot-10 former Washington star, he felt an even greater desire to give back to the community.
"When we came back to Seattle, we said let's get involved somehow, but we didn't have a plan," he said. "It just grew."
In 1996 he formed the Detlef Schrempf Foundation which has raised more than $9 million benefiting Northwest charities.
Shrempf will receive the Paul Allen Award for citizenship on Jan. 25 at the Seattle Sports Star of the Year banquet.
"For us, it means that we get recognition for the last 18 years and what we're trying to achieve here, which is basically help children in need and working with multiple charities throughout the years to really have an impact in the community," said Schrempf, who will turn 49 on Saturday.
He credits a great team for the foundation's success that includes vice president Chris Levitt, executive director Nicole Morrison and Mari, who also servers as vice president.
"We hadn't had any turnover," Schrempf said. "We have a great group that loves what they're doing. It's been remarkable we've stayed together for so long."
The plan back then was simple. Coax friends to donate sports memorabilia. Partner with Seattle-area companies for a fundraising event. And give money to worthy charities.
"We started with a golf tournament and it just grew from there," Shrempf said. "We'd get so many requests every day from every charity you can think of and we figured we better get focused and better organized. ... We realized we have to come up with a mission statement on what is our focus because we can't help everybody.
"We decided what's dear to us is our children. That's our next generation and that's what we picked as a team and that's what we stuck to. We focused on somewhat smaller charities that don't necessarily receive government funds, so the check we give has more impact."
Eleven years after Schrempf retired from the NBA, his foundation is still going strong.
"What we're proud of is we've had an impact on many different organizations," he said. "We're like a sounding board. A lot of people come to us for help not just for money, but to help people get started with their foundations and their causes.
"We've been able to stay alive all this time after basketball. We didn't think we'd still be here, but we are."