Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In memory of Maurice Lucas, father of a premature baby

In 1977, I was 13 years old. My parents have always been Portland Trail Blazer fans, and that year the whole city got into the act. It was "Blazer Mania" and "Rip City" time. Bill Schoneley (the enthusiastic announcer who coined "Rip City!") became a Portland icon.

My parents' friends knew Larry Steele (#15), and I got to meet him once when he came over to borrow my dad's rototiller. It was so exciting!!

Portland Trail Blazers' Championship Team, 1976-77
I liked Dave Twardzik (#13) because at only 6 foot, 1 inch, he was a basketball shorty! But my sister's favorite was Maurice Lucas, the incredible power forward. Mike and I joined my parents and other friends in following the Blazers in the early 1990s (the era of Clyde the Glide--my favorite!--and Terry Porter), but I became disenchanted with the sex and drug scandals later on. Now I rarely watch basketball. (The parents are still hooked, though!)

I didn't think much about my childhood memories of Maurice Lucas until 1996, when we became intimately acquainted with Legacy Emanuel's NICU, where Maurice Lucas's daughter Kristin also stayed. Similar to Chris, Kristin was born weighing only 1 pound, 6 ounces, and she stayed in the NICU for two months. (This is in contrast to Chris' four months in the NICU, most likely because white males statistically have the worst NICU journeys and females of color have the best outcomes.) Kristin is now a "thriving teenager" like our Chris. The parent lounge--where Mike continues to go monthly to host free dinners for the NICU parents, as part of Precious Beginnings, the parent support nonprofit we helped found--has a plaque with Lucas' name on it. He funded the lounge, one of the few places in the vicinity of the NICU where parents can watch TV, have a snack, or meet.

Over the years, Maurice Lucas and his wife Pamela have raised over $1.5 million for charities, including Legacy Emanuel Hospital. Even though he was an outstanding superstar basketball player, his most enduring legacy will be the help he gave to NICU families everywhere.

Maurice and Pamela Lucas at an Emanuel fundraising event
Portland has lost a true hero.

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