LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – Bill Hanzlik spent eight years playing for the Denver Nuggets, but he has spent more than two decades helping Colorado’s children.
In his fourth season with the Nuggets, Hanzlik started the Gold Crown Foundation, which began as a summer basketball camp for girls. By 1994, Gold Crown offered places for kids to play basketball all year.READ MORE: Aurora Police: Driver Dies After 3-Car Crash On South Parker Road On Nov. 10
“I realized early in my career that I had a passion to give back and help kids,” Hanzlik said.
Gold Crown offers low-income kids a chance to perfect basketball skills in a safe place, off the streets.
“If you have an extracurricular activity that you’re doing, it just helps your whole persona. Your whole life becomes better,” Hanzlik said.
Now in its 27th year, the non-profit is so successful that it has its own sports complex in Lakewood. Nearly half a million people use it every year and not just for basketball. The facilities offer other sports including volleyball and lacrosse.
But basketball really remains the focus and keeps kids coming. The first camp hosted 150 girls, now nearly 18,000 girls and boys take advantage of the camps every year.
Not all the teaching is on the court. The foundation also offers tutoring in classes like art and technology.READ MORE: Broomfield Family Opens Home to Afghan Refugee Family On Thanksgiving
“I’ve seen a lot of kids that may not be successful in school become successful here, and that transfers over,” said Galen Shoe, a tutor at Gold Crown.
Chris Darby is one of those kids who found a new direction at Gold Crown.
“They pushed me to go to college,” Darby said.
Darby was 10 when he started at Gold Crown. Now he’s a graphic design major at Adams State University. His goal is to run his own company making clothing for skaters.
It’s the specialized tutoring at Gold Crown that can help students find a focus and a purpose.
Hanzlik said he never imaged the program would grow so large, but he’s proud to see the lessons from the court help children from all walks of life.
“It’s about helping kids with life skills,” Hanzlik said. “Teamwork, character, commitment, responsibility. Those things in sports that can make a difference in their life for a long, long time.”MORE NEWS: 2 Dead, 2 injured In Head-On Crash East Of Elizabeth On Highway 86 In Elbert County
Gold Crown has outreach in every community in the Denver metro area. You can find out more about all those programs at www.goldcrownfoundation.com