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Hoops star a slam dunk for St. B award

Hospital honours Nash's efforts

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He's long, he's lean, he's a child-helping machine -- and now he'll have a prestigious award to prove it.

Steve Nash, the Canadian point guard for the Phoenix Suns NBA team, will be named the 2011 winner of the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation's International Award, the hospital will announce today.

"I’m so humbled to be considered by the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation for this award — I’m not sure I belong in the company I now keep on this list, but hope to one day measure up to the legacy of philanthropy and service it represents," Nash said in a statement.

"The work I’m doing through my Foundation plays such a central part of my days, and it’s a huge honour to be recognized in this way. I’m looking forward to sharing in this with the International Award committee and the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation community, visiting the Hospital, meeting some of the province’s youth, and coming to Winnipeg for a great event in September."

Since 1976, the award has been handed out to a diverse selection of health researchers and humanitarian heroes. Nash's name will join a list that already includes Dr. Christiaan Barnard -- the surgeon who performed the world's first heart transplant -- and Jimmy Carter's wife, Rosalynn.

So special is the award that it isn't given out every year. It's been three years since the last recipient, Sir Bob Geldof, was lauded for his humanitarian efforts.

"It's more about finding the appropriate candidates, and working with them," said St. Boniface Hospital Foundation CEO Chuck LaFleche.

So what made Nash stand out?

It certainly wasn't his free throws (though they are seriously fabulous). Rather, the British Columbia-raised basketballer earned the honour for his work with the Steve Nash Foundation, which funds programs to help children impacted by poverty, abuse or illness.

Nash -- an Order of Canada member -- also once paid for a new pediatric cardiology unit at a hospital in Paraguay and helped raise $2.5 million for impoverished children at an exhibition basketball game in China between NBA players and the Chinese national team.

"Steve and his foundation really embody a lot of the characteristics that inspire us," LaFleche said. "He's a superstar that could do a lot of things with his money -- but chose to create a foundation dedicated to bringing best practices to infants, toddlers and children."

Nash will be on-hand when the actual award is bestowed at a gala fundraising dinner on Sept. 12.

But for St. Boniface, the key thing about the award isn't so much the money raised from the awards dinner -- it's the synergy that can flow between the foundation and the award recipients.

And with this award, the future looks promising. The director of Nash's foundation toured the hospital earlier this year, LaFleche said, and saw how Nash's foundation and St. Boniface's might share some common goals.

"Already we have some ideas how (projects) could mirror things we're going in our foundation, especially as it relates to kids," LaFleche said. "Those are the lasting benefits."


In good company

In 1976, the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation launched the International Award. Since then, 25 individuals and organizations have been lauded:

1976: Dr. Jonas Salk

1977: Dr. Christiaan Barnard

1978: Prince Phillip

1979: First Lady Rosalynn Carter

1980: Dr. Alvin Mauer and Danny Thomas

1981: First Lady of Egypt Jehan el Sadat

1982: Mother Teresa

1983: Dr. Henry G. Friesen, Dr. Lyonel G. Israels, Dr. Frank S. LaBella, Dr. Alec H. Sehon

1984: Pope John Paul II

1985: The Medical Research Council of Canada

1989: Dr. Andrei Sakharov

1994: Sir Edmund Hillary

1996: Dr. Donnall Thomas and José Carreras

2000: Mennonite Central Committee

2001: Dr. Eugene Braunwald

2004: Dr. John Foerster

2005: Dr. Frank Plummer, Dr. Allan Ronald, Stephen Lewis

2008: Sir Bob Geldof

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 10, 2011 A6


Updated on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 1:22 PM CDT: Adds statement from Nash.

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