Growing up in Beaumont, Texas, Thunder center Kendrick Perkins was without parents by the age of 5.
His father, Kenneth, left his family to play pro basketball overseas. His mother, Ercell, was shot and killed while working at a local beauty salon.
Perkins wound up being raised by his grandparents, Raymond and Mary Lewis, who became his legal guardian.
Raymond worked for Gulf States Asphalt Co. and made $400 a month. Mary cleaned houses and made about $60 a week.
“Grew up in a very poor household,” Perkins said. “We ended up making it work.”
Perkins came to the aid of some abused and neglected local boys when he purchased 30 tickets to the Thunder's game Sunday night against the Chicago Bulls at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Founded 13 years ago in Piedmont, White Fields offers a long-term home for boys ages 8 to 18, who are in the permanent custody of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services Child Welfare Division. Its mission is “to meet the physical, emotional, educational and spiritual needs … with counseling and guidance.”
White Fields provides residential cottages and an on-campus school with opportunities for recreation, mentoring, community involvement and mental-health treatment for recovery and healing.
Perkins visited White Fields on Saturday and was moved by what he saw.
“I've got two sons of my own, so I was just thinking about those young men who are over there without parents and had to grow up not really knowing their family,” Perkins explained. “It's a tough situation, but they've got good people there who work with them. I really like how the whole thing is done. Kids look happy, even though they're in the situation that they're in. People are really taking good care of them and taking time with them.”
Perkins' own life experiences made it easy for him to relate to the boys at White Fields.
“It did, because as children we all go through things,” Perkins said. “Unfortunately some situations are not our fault and we get put in other situations. The reason they're at White Fields is not because it's their fault, it's because of someone else's mistake.”