Jayhawks Give Back

Dec. 3, 2010


Billy Thomas, former Kansas basketball student-athlete, joined a classroom of kids ages three to five Wednesday, Dec. 1, to celebrate Head Start of Shawnee Mission’s 45th birthday.

Thomas, who finished his KU career in 1998 as the all-time KU leader in three-pointers made, volunteered to be a celebrity reader through the “Jayhawks Give Back” community outreach program. He read “Have you filled your bucket today?” by Carol McCloud. The book encourages positive behavior as children see how rewarding it is to express daily kindness, appreciation, and love by “filling other people’s buckets.”

The Head Start of Shawnee Mission program provides comprehensive services for 218 poverty-level children (from birth to age five) and their families, including the operation of a quality early-childhood education program.

“We are so appreciative of Billy taking time out of his busy schedule to come and read a book to our preschool children,” said Terrie VanZandt-Travis, Executive Director of Head Start of Shawnee Mission. “Billy’s involvement and presence exposes the children to a positive male role model, which is critical as 70-percent of our children are being raised by a single parent, typically a female.”

Thomas recently retired from his professional basketball career that spanned over 13 years. He played for three NBA teams, in several European countries and also in the NBA Development League. During his career, he made it a priority to help support his local community by visiting schools to read and speak to students about character and giving their personal best.

“I enjoy and get a tremendous sense of duty fulfilled when I get an opportunity to interact with children who come from the same background as myself,” said Thomas, who is now the head boys basketball coach at The Barstow School in Kansas City, Mo. “I’m honored to have the opportunity to represent Kansas Athletics.”