Udonis Haslam Casino Benefit

Don’t expect to see Udonis Haslem out around town with an entourage, even at his charity’s annual fundraising event.

I don’t have bodyguards or anything like that,” said Udonis. “I don’t want kids or anybody to feel intimidated when they see me. I always want to feel that I can be approached.”

The 6-foot, 8-inches basketball star prides himself on his humility, except when he is at the poker table.

I’m a great bluff guy,” said Haslem. “I go all in. The game face is on.”

So this year, the sometimes-gambler decided to mix things up for the annual Denim & Diamonds party located at the Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort. Saturday night’s event featured music by the Heat’s official DJ, DJ Irie, and a casino set up in the Grand Ballroom.

The dress code for the evening was upscale rodeo, so guests, including Dwyane Wade, a Miami Heat team member, showed up in jeans. “Usually we do the suit and tie thing,” said Haslem, “but this year we wanted to have some fun.”

The Udonis Haslem Children’s Foundation was incorporated on August 11, 2005. Its intention is to “promote youth development and self confidence through programs and services designed to enable them to reach their full personal and educational potential.” Haslem created this organization out of his determination to give back to the community in which he grew up, the community that made it possible for him to realize his life’s dreams.

The foundation offers a number of programs and services that are designed to build the self-confidence and self-esteem of the community’s youth. Reading and math tutoring services are offered to improve necessary classroom skills, while gift and holiday programs are available to underprivileged children. Naturally, free basketball clinics are also a big part of the foundation’s activities and these clinics promote discipline and teamwork as well as physical fitness and social skills. Free tickets to Miami Heat games are awarded to deserving youth.

Haslem attended the University of Florida, where he was a starting center for four years. During his sophomore year, the Gators advanced in the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship game and the team made the NCAA tournament all four years that Haslem played. He ranked third in University of Florida history in points scored (1,782) and tenth in rebounds (831). Haslem was signed by the Miami Heat as an undrafted rookie in 2003 and began as the starting power forward in 2004.

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