Shaq O’Neal pledges 1,000 laptops and shoes to children in Wichita

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The children of Wichita will soon benefit from the generosity of Shaquille O’Neal.

While appearing at Koch Arena on Saturday night for a charity basketball game in Wichita, the NBA legend and Hall of Famer pledged to buy 1,000 laptops and 1,000 pairs of his new Reebok “Shaq Attaq” shoes for Storytime Village, a Wichita-based nonprofit child literacy organization, to distribute.

The promise didn’t come without stipulation, however.

The problem? In his halftime interview, the Big Diesel, a children’s book author who stopped by Wichita to help promote children’s literacy with the local charity, came out of the script and challenged a Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Deputy diving in the second half of the charity basketball game to win the donation.

Sitting in his seat at the edge of the field on his team’s bench, Vince Folston couldn’t believe it when O’Neal called him on the microphone in front of the crowd.

“I actually went up to him at halftime and said, ‘Hey Shaq, sorry I missed that dunk,'” Folston said. The Eagle. “He told me he wasn’t going to give me an autograph until I got a dunk.

“And then he gets on the mic and starts pointing at me and I’m like, ‘Oh man, here we go. He says he will get 1000 laptops and 1000 shoes for the kids if I dive. Like wow, thanks for putting that kind of pressure on me, Shaq. I am an old man now. I can’t really get up and dive like I used to.

Folston, who is 6-foot-5 and played football and basketball at Southwestern College from 2012 to 2015, was up for the challenge.

After a few missed dunks early in the second half, the opposition cleared the paint for Folston to dribble freely to the basket and on his third down, Folston slammed the ball through the rim to draw a standing ovation from the crowd.

By then, O’Neal had already been taken for a post-game fan meet, but Folston beamed with pride afterwards with his once-in-a-lifetime story involving one of basketball’s most famous players. in history.

“I told the sheriff I was going to make him proud, so here it is,” Folston said with a laugh. “It’s a pretty awesome feeling to be able to get 1,000 free laptops and shoes for the kids.”

But before any of those laptops or shoes arrived, O’Neal had already made a difference in a child’s life on Saturday night.

teddy.jpg
Teddy, a 10-year-old Peterson Elementary student, was impressed when NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal called him for an autograph and a photo at Koch Arena on Saturday. Taylor Eldridge The Wichita Eagle

Teddy, a 10-year-old student from Peterson Elementary School, and his mother, Jennifer Ghione, managed to get O’Neal’s attention as he sat on the court during the game during the first half. time.

O’Neal initially waved and gave a peace sign to mother and son, but after some pleading, O’Neal granted Teddy special access outside his security to meet the 7 star feet 1 inch.

“It was so amazing, absolutely amazing,” Ghione said. “I was so choked up. I was shaking as I recorded him coming down. I was going to do everything I could to get my son to meet him because we couldn’t get a meet ticket. So it was absolutely a dream come true.

Teddy handed O’Neal his gray autograph hoodie, then had the opportunity to take a selfie with one of his basketball idols. By the time he left Koch Arena, the image was already saved as a lock screen image on his iPhone.

As soon as he was done taking the picture, Teddy turned around and his jaw dropped immediately. He was in awe of what had just happened, so much so that his jaw dropped open to his seat with his mother.

“It was like a dream,” Teddy said. “It doesn’t seem real. I still don’t think it’s real.

This story was originally published September 12, 2022 7:00 a.m.

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