NBA player and Ames native Harrison Barnes presented the Ames Public Library with a check for $53,000 on Saturday for the Harrison Barnes Reading Buddies program.
Barnes has been making an everlasting impact in the Ames community and youth through his involvement in his program.
In 2000, then-School Board member Carolyn Jons realized reaching standard reading levels wasn’t happening for every child in Ames. Jons and a group of like-minded individuals made a goal for every child to be at or above their grade reading level by third grade.
The first program the group created was the Reach Out and Read program where doctors would provide books for children at their checkups.
Later, the Reading Buddies program was created, but it wasn’t until Barnes became involved and his name was attached to the program that it really began to take off.
“Harrison and his wife have just been fantastic in supporting our growth,” Jons said. “We have more children in our summer program this year and wanting to be in our summer program than we’ve ever had.”
Barnes said he had struggles with reading as a child, which is why he first became involved with the program.
“Reading is something where it didn’t necessarily come easy to me at first, but as I got better at it I had a lot of enjoyment with it,” Barnes said.
Through the work of his mom, teachers and librarians, Barnes said they were able to help make reading seem less rudimentary, and reading soon became a hobby rather than a requirement.
When Barnes played for the Dallas Mavericks, he said the players there had a reading club were each player would take turns choosing a book the group would read.
As an NBA player, Barnes said he reads while traveling but also in his free time.
To help youngsters in the program, Barnes has made time to video chat children who are struggling.
“So last summer I actually had the chance to sit in, see how a session goes — it’s actually pretty intensive,” Barnes said
Barnes said the kids can easily become discouraged by their progress and can have troubles voicing their struggles.
When he talks to them, Barnes makes it clear every person experiences those struggles and soon they will be reading a new book every other day.
No matter what, Barnes said he wants the children in his program to continue to develop their proficiency.
Wayne Clinton — a member of the Ames Historical Society Board — said he is proud of the legacy Barnes, who Clinton said he has known his whole life, is leaving.
Through his programs, Clinton said future generations will be able to connect with Barnes, who has accomplished so much as a professional athlete and in the community.
Barnes was drafted seventh overall by the Golden State Warriors in 2012 out of North Carolina and won a title with the team in 2015. In the 2015 season, the Warriors set the NBA record for regular season wins with 73 which beat the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ 72 wins.
Barnes then signed a four-year $94 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks in 2016 but was traded to the Sacramento Kings this past season. Barnes averaged 16.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists last season.
Despite his recent philanthropic efforts, Clinton said Barnes has always been thoughtful and caring.
Clinton also said Barnes is a high-character person due to the fact there is never negative news about him.
When Barnes signed with Dallas, Barnes had a basketball camp in Ames which Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle attended and Clinton said Carlisle raved about the character of Barnes.
“When I see young people today, and when I talk about professional athletes, I want them to look at a Harrison Barnes as the type of role model they can be,” Clinton said.