Dec. 10, 2012
UCLA basketball alumnus Brad Wright (1982-85) sponsored a day at the Ramos Bros. Circus on Dec. 2 for over 1,300 foster children and their foster families. Wright and his wife, Meshun, have created the Rainbow Adventure Children's Enterprise (R.A.C.E.) to bring awareness to children awaiting adoption and transitional foster youth.
Wright, who appeared in 99 career games with 39 starts, led the Bruins in rebounding (8.7 rpg) and blocked shots (44) in 1985 and helped lead UCLA to the 1985 NIT Championship. He played for two seasons in the NBA (1986-87, NY Knicks; 1987-88, Denver Nuggets) and continued playing professionally until 2000, in the CBA and overseas, in France, Italy and Spain.
A cancer survivor who beat the disease in 2009, Wright was named the Commissioner of the Venice Basketball League (VBL), located on the Venice Beach, CA boardwalk basketball courts in 2011. Wright helped resurrect the league and uses basketball to create a safe environment for youth, promote healthy lifestyles, and to encourage leadership.
Wright provides a first-hand account of his experience in "buying a circus."
By Brad Wright
December 2, 2012
It all started with the recent adoption of our three-year-old daughter, Melanie. My wife, Meshun, a classmate of mine in the 1980's at UCLA, and I were planning on buying a new SUV. With our new addition, we both needed some space while driving. Some weeks earlier, we took our daughter to the Ramos Bros. Circus for the first time in her life. She loved it so much that we went every week and brought one of her preschool classmates along. As she carefully watched the faces of her friend light up at their first experience at a circus, Melanie seemed to enjoy the show more and more, as if it was her first time as well.
It was the night of Nov. 9, 2012, just after the opening UCLA basketball game at the new Pauley Pavilion, that my wife and I decided that instead of buying a new car to carry one child, let's buy the circus for one day to carry all the children.
The next morning, I rushed to the circus and met with owners Alex, Bernardo, Oliver and Douglas Ramos. I told them of my plans and asked them to name their price, as my wife and I wanted to buy a private show as soon as possible. They told me they would be leaving town, but would be happy to discuss my proposal when they would be performing in Glendale. This was a no-brainer for us, as we love the community of Glendale, and we proceeded to negotiate. The deal was sealed by our lawyers the next day, and now all we had to do was get the kids there...no small feat.
I nearly stalked Christine Devine of Fox 11 News. She is the heart of Wednesday's Child, a program that brings light to all children living in darkness. I found her in a neighboring city and boldly approached her after her taping. I knew in my heart that she would not deny me. After all, she was the motivation for Meshun and I to share our lives with another human being that was searching for love.
Next, I went to El Camino Charter High school and, they not only ran a toy drive, but they offered their award-winning marching band, cheerleaders and Camerata singers. We arranged for three buses to carry the over 100 kids in return.
Soon, it was the night before, and all the news stations were repeating the same dreaded weather reports I have feared the past five days ... Rain! Overcast weekend days are usually filled with household errands and tasks. My thoughts floated to the obvious conclusion that the families might stay in their pajamas and declare it a "lazy" day.
In the end, despite the weather, more than 1300 people decided to collectively celebrate, uplift and affirm each other's commitment to care for children in the foster care and adoption system at the circus. The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), The Ronald McDonald House, The Dave Thomas Foundation, and other foster/adoption organizations were there. Meanwhile, I was anxious for the circus to begin and, more importantly, end positively, as these were high stakes.
As I greeted people, my heart rejoiced for, and with, the children who are experiencing the great American tradition...the circus. They have loving homes and were there with their families. I'm humbled by their courage and optimistic for their futures. The smiles and happiness already displayed that morning were amazing. I could not have asked for more, and my dreams for the day were becoming realities.
The circus tents were a classic red and white, and the kids smiled and laughed in anticipation of the show to come. A major sponsor, Johnny Rockets, donated over 1,400 meals and beverages and set up a water-tattoo table surrounded by kids sticking tattoos on their hands, arms and cheeks. A few families viewed the animals and took pictures with zebras, horses, llamas, and camels. Meanwhile, the lunch line crowd wrapped around the tent as guests slowly made their way inside the gates.
Bus after bus, family after family, child after child continued entering as I did my best to thank everyone for serving these kids and breaking the cycle of abuse and neglect that has become the unfortunate reality in these children's lives. At one point, I saw Alex Ramos welcoming guests with his boisterous personality. He was standing next to Christine Devine as she hugged and took pictures with families. This was awesome!
Finally, it was show time and the tent was packed. During the show, the laughter, cheering, clapping, and whistling confirmed the events' success. What a fantastic celebration! Had it not been for the rain, I'm certain guests would have stayed and taken more pictures, pet more animals and continued retelling favorite parts of the show.
Now, a few days after the event has ended, I have a great feeling of serenity and pride as my dream of making other kids' dreams come true has happened. To see the smiles of all the adopted kids and their families hug and laugh was amazing and at that moment I realized that this was one of the greatest moments in my life. I finally did something that mattered to someone other than myself. My wife Meshun and I have committed to buy three more shows over the next three years, and I hope to be able to reach out to many more children as it's never too late to make a child smile.