As a child growing up in Jacksonville, Otis F. Smith dreamed of playing in the NBA. But his dreams of playing professional basketball were second only to his desire to give children in his hometown a chance to live out their dreams by offering them opportunities they may not otherwise have.
Playing college basketball at Jacksonville University provided Otis the chance to stay connected to the community and to the children he so desperately wanted to help. Despite a schedule that included college courses, studying, basketball practice and games, Otis took it upon himself to reach out to those who needed help. He began holding informal basketball clinics, where he taught local children not only the fundamentals of basketball, but valuable life skills as well. Respect, teamwork, conflict resolution and making positive choices were just a few of the important values Otis stressed at the clinics. He continued working with children on his own throughout his college career, earning the respect of his teammates, his family and most importantly, the children of Northeast Florida.
Drafted by the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the 1986 draft, Smith continued to nurture and teach Jacksonville children during the off-season for several years. On October 30, 1989, Otis's lifelong dream came true - the Otis Smith Kids Foundation received its charter and one of Jacksonville's leading children's organizations was born.
Since its inception in 1989, the Otis Smith Kids Foundation has made a positive impact on the lives of more than 100,000 Northeast Florida children. Programs produced by the Foundation include:
- Summer day camp
- After-school tutoring
- Holiday celebrations
- Health screenings
- Field trips to sporting events, cultural institutions and local attractions
The Otis Smith Kids Foundation currently provides all former Foundation students the opportunity to attend Florida Community College at Jacksonville at no cost, with nominal eligibility requirements. The scholarship program is managed by the Foundation’s Board of Directors and covers tuition, books and supplies for eligible students.