As a new NBA season approaches, there are a number of dates marked on Deron Williams’ calendar. But 12 days before he hits the court for Nets training camp, D-Will is hosting one of his favorite events of the year: Celebrity Dodge Barrage.
The fifth annual Dodge Barrage will commence on Monday, Sept. 15, at Basketball City at Pier 36.
D-Will has hosted the event—a round-robin dodgeball tournament—going back to his days with the Utah Jazz, when he co-hosted with Jazz teammate Kyle Korver, who is now with the Atlanta Hawks. After signing with the Brooklyn Nets, D-Will brought the event, which is presented by Master Purveyors this year, to New York where he will be hosting it for the second time.
“It’s just a really fun event,” Deron said. “It’s definitely different. A lot of guys do basketball games and golf tournaments but nobody is really doing dodgeball. I didn’t know what to expect or what the turnout was going to be like, but it ended up being a hit in Utah. I did it there for three years and then last year was the first year that we brought it to New York.”
Several of D-Will’s current and former teammates will be in attendance, along with a number of other celebrities.
But for Deron, the event has always been about an enjoyable and memorable way to raise money for his foundation—Point of Hope. All proceeds from the event benefit the Point of Hope, as well as the Brooklyn League Education and Treatment Center. Point of Hope raises money for a number of charities, but one of its main focuses is on its partnership with Autism Speaks.
“I’m definitely happy with how things are going,” D-Will said of the Point of Hope Foundation. “We’ve had a lot of great events and we’ve been able to raise a lot of money for a lot of different causes over the years: juvenile diabetes, cancer, autism. Now what we mainly focus on is children with autism and their families. Even though I don’t shy away from a lot of other causes, that’s kind of the main focus ever since my son was diagnosed with autism.”
Deron—who discovered his son, D.J., was autistic in 2011—knows firsthand the difficulties parents of children with autism can face. So he uses his position in the NBA as a vehicle to raise awareness.
“The raising awareness is the most important to me,” he says. “I think a lot of people don’t know how relevant autism is. A lot of people are scared. They know something might be a little off about the child. They’re scared to get them tested. That’s only hurting the kid in the long run.”
Deron told Yahoo!’s the PostGame that interacting with parents with Autistic children has also been of assistance to him in raising his D.J. and he aims to provide assistance to other parents facing the same challenges in any way that he can.
“I’m able to give back to autism and I can relate to other parents,” Williams says. “My son is high functioning. He can speak. He’s verbal. Other kids don’t talk. It’s really hard, especially when they get older. Just being able to relate to people and share experiences and give and get advice has been great for me.”
Jamitha Fields, Vice President of Community Affairs for Autism Speaks gives Deron credit for not only coming up with the ideas for the events, but taking it upon himself to engage the guests and make them feel welcome.
“The events that are done are conceptualized by Deron. They aren’t just an Autism Speaks idea,” Fields told PostGame. “It’s not like an event that’s put on the calendar and he shakes a couple of hands and he’s out the door. He’s fully invested. He wants to make sure we’re doing something for the families. He cares because he’s a part of who they are.”
Dodge Barrage marks Point of Hope’s signature fundraiser and D-Will always gets excited when the event rolls around, as it is a night to not just raise money for the important cause, but to have a little fun as well.
“Last year, a lot of people dressed up,” he says. “They didn’t know they’d get down and dirty. They will this year. They know what to expect. Get out there and get thrown in the fire. The competitiveness comes out.”
To learn more about the event, donate to the cause or register to compete, go to the Point of Hope’s official Dodge Barrage page.