Former University of Maryland and Houston Rockets basketball player Steve Francis gives back to his hometown in a big way. Francis, a graduate of Montgomery Blair High School, participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony June 3 to officially open the newly renovated Takoma-Piney Branch Local Park to the community. Through the Steve Francis Foundation, he donated generously to restore the 17.4-acre park.
Three hundred community members came out to celebrate the park’s opening, including elected officials such as State Senator Jamie Raskin, State Delegate Sheila Hixson and Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams as well as Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier and Director of Parks Mary Bradford.
The money donated to redevelop Francis’ childhood park allowed for construction of a new basketball court, which features a color-coated surface and six hoops to allow for half- and full-court play; a skateboard park; a volleyball court; and a pavilion dedicated to his late mother, who died from cancer when Francis was 18 years old.
“The response has been great,” Francis said. “They [Montgomery Parks Foundation] really appreciate somebody who grew up here to come back and give back to the community. A lot of people grow up and don’t come back and give back.”
Francis’ donation will also be used to establish an endowment for the Takoma-Piney Branch Local Park, to support operations and lifecycle repairs and replacements to the amenities. Francis compared the feeling of opening the park to graduating from high school or college or making it to the NBA. It was another one of those pinnacles, he said.
Francis said his hope for the park was for youngsters to learn and grow from the community’s older children.
This donation, from a homegrown professional athlete, elevates the profile of the Montgomery Parks Foundation and its efforts and mission to inspire financial support from the community to support its parks.