MORGANTOWN â€” During his basketball career at West Virginia University, Da’Sean Butler produced a number of magic moments, game-winning shots that beat the buzzer time after time and carried the Mountaineers to the Final Four in 2010.
But Sunday he and his charitable foundation, Give A Hoop Foundation, teamed up with another charitable group made up of West Virginia students named A Moment of Magic to create a different kind of magic moment.
This one was creating a fantasy world to raise funds for both charities that focus on helping ill and unfortunate children.
Marra Sigler is A Moment of Magic president and founder of the WVU chapter and is as different as fire and water from Butler, yet both have the same feelings within their hearts.
Butler is a professional basketball player from urban Newark, N.J., Sigler is a senior speech pathology and audiology student from Charles Town, West Virginia. Butler is black. Sigler is white. Butler is 6-foot-7, Sigler 4-foot-11.
But they found each other in this world where differences are being widened each and every day and the children after the beneficiaries.
They came at it from different angles.
Butler was never forgot his roots despite becoming a basketball hero, and in Newark an upbringing can be a difficult experience.
“My initial goal was to be a positive role model in young kids lives,” Butler explained. “I started with kids who didn’t have much but were working hard and got good grades in school. I found people who could identify these kids and we started out giving them gifts to reward them; to say thank you for what you’re doing and keep working hard.
“I wanted them to know that things aren’t always perfect but you have to keep your head down and keep working hard.”
That, though, wasn’t enough.
“I realized it was good to do that, but it would be better to be more involved with kids and give them certain things they may need,” Butler said. “We started helping out giving them things they didn’t have.
“Like we found kids that didn’t have shoes, which is really crazy. It’s so tough. You can’t play, you can’t take part in gym classes and the stigma that comes along with that. I grew up and I didn’t have the coolest things. Sometimes I didn’t have (anything). It sucked.
“So we tried to help the kids with school supplies, hoping to raise enough money to donate clothes and shoes to those who really need. It wasn’t a one-faceted thing. We tried to team up with groups helping kids. We started small but I wanted to make it on the biggest scale I could make it. Little by little we expanded.”
Butler was urged in this direction while playing basketball at WVU, where coach Bob Huggins urged his players to be involved in the community and at WVU’s Children Hospital.
“That helped open my eyes,” Butler admitted.
He saw a lot of things that weren’t necessarily pretty.
“I hate to see people not at their best. It hurts my heart,” he said.
All the while he was looking to do more.
Then came a Christmas Eve and Butler tweeted about his Give A Hoop Foundation.
Sigler saw the tweet.
“It’s always been my goal to work with WVU basketball in some form. ‘Wow, this is perfect,’ she thought to herself.
So she messaged him on Twitter, but he didn’t answer.
“So, I shot him an e-mail and his mother-in-law, Evie Brantmayer, who is assistant dean at Health Sciences, where I’m an orientation leader. We already kind of knew each other so we tried to figure out what we wanted to do and this is what we came up with,” Sigler said.
She had started the Moment of Magic Foundation chapter two year earlier. The national had founded on the College of St. Vincent campus and was looking to grow.
“My mother came across it and said she thought it would be a good thing,” Sigler said. “When your mother says do something, you do it.”
So she applied, went through a process that narrowed 1,200 applications to 10 and was awarded a chapter at WVU.
She had dedicated most of her full time to building it up toward Sunday’s fund raiser, working with Butler and his wife, Megan.
The group he started a couple of years back has grown from two to 75 members
What they do is work with medically vulnerable children and try to brighten their lives as much as they can. They dress as princes and princesses and super heroes, get to walk and talk with their favorite characters.
At Sunday’s event there was brunch, a children’s fashion show and charity raffles while honoring two children, Ziler Hawkins and Endsley Bratton, who could not have been more thrilled.
Neither could Butler nor Sigler.