Dirk and Jessica Nowitzki received the prestigious Spirit of Compassion Award at the third annual UNICEF Gala on Feb. 7 in Dallas.
Both Dirk and Jessica have been involved with UNICEF for many years – Dirk as a UNICEF Germany Ambassador since 2013, and Jessica as a long-term member of the UNICEF regional leadership committee. Both have contributed and worked with UNICEF around the world, not only in the U.S. Among the Nowitzkis’ most significant regional efforts with the organization came in 2017 following Hurricane Harvey, when the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation partnered with UNICEF to help create and fund new mental health initiatives for children experiencing trauma and to develop a mentorship program for families affected by the hurricane. The program also helped assimilate children as they returned to school with necessary psycho-social support.
This year, the Gala raised a record-breaking $1.5 million.
»It’s humbling,« Dirk told The Dallas Morning News last week. »It’s such a great organization, it’s been a perfect fit for us and the foundation. And now that I’m not playing anymore, I have more time to be even more involved. I’m looking forward to that.«
Former Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who in addition to his work while in public office also has a longstanding friendship with Dirk and Jessica, introduced them before they received the honor.
»Jessica’s class, her sense of making things happen, and her sense of big picture has added so much to the city,« Rawlings said.
Caryl M. Stern, former UNICEF USA CEO and president and currently the executive director of the Walton Family Foundation, was also honored that evening.
One of the top contributions and highlights of the evening came during an auction for a VIP experience at September’s Dirk Nowitzki Pro Celebrity Tennis Classic. The experience sold for $30,000. The tennis tournament is not only a fun event both to watch and to compete in, but it’s also the Foundation’s signature event of the year.