NBA player Wilcox stocks shelves of Helping Hand of Myrtle Beach

ablondin@thesunnews.comAugust 2, 2012 

— As a member of the Boston Celtics, Whiteville, N.C., native Chris Wilcox realizes he’s in a much better position in life than most.

That’s why he feels the need to help others.

Knowing charitable organizations are struggling in tough economic times, Wilcox is in Myrtle Beach this week to assist a couple of benevolent causes.

He has a golf tournament Friday at Myrtle Beach National Golf Club to help fund the battle against Lupus, and delivered a pickup truck load of food to the Helping Hand of Myrtle Beach on Mr. Joe White Ave. on Thursday.

“I wanted to kind of reach out to a community center or something where we could donate goods and help less fortunate people out,” Wilcox said. “It was a great opportunity and I just hope I can touch the right families. … You see a lot of people who are less fortunate and I’m in a position to help.”

Bags and boxes of peanut butter, jelly, instant potatoes, grits, oatmeal, macaroni and cheese, pork and beans, and fruit were unloaded off the truck by Wilcox and several of his family members. The donation should help the Helping Hand feed people for up to a week, combined with other donations.

“This was awesome because we got to choose what we were getting,” said Helping Hand Executive Director Adrian Weatherwax. “They called and asked us what we need the most. Peanut butter and jelly is a little bit expensive, but that’s what kids live on.”

Weatherwax said Helping Hand assists between 75 and 200 people each day, including approximately 70 families that need food, so it doesn’t remain on the shelves long.

“When we’re feeding 75 families a day, it just kind of comes in and goes right out the same day,” Weatherwax said. “We may start out with full shelves and by the end of the day they’re empty.”

Some residents also are assisted financially including with rent, medicine, utility bills and gas. Weatherwax said the number of people seeking assistance from Helping Hand has been increasing 15 to 20 percent each year in recent years, and about 27,000 people went through the organization’s doors last year. Demand is particularly high during the summer.

“Summers are always difficult,” Weatherwax said. “Kids are home from school and they’re eating breakfast and lunch at home, so that puts an extra burden on mom to provide those extra meals.”

Helping Hand has a regular rotation of churches that collect and donate food, other regular donors including homeowner associations and grocery stores such as Bi-Lo, Food Lion and Kroger, and other individuals and businesses.

Wilcox, 29, played at Whiteville High and the University of Maryland, and lives in Raleigh, N.C., during the offseason. He has somewhat adopted Myrtle Beach as a hometown community.

He has vacationed on the Grand Strand regularly since his childhood, is holding his Chris Wilcox Power Forward to Cure Lupus Golf Outing on the Strand for the fourth consecutive year on Friday, and married his wife, Tiffany, last year at the Grande Dunes Marina Inn.

“I’m here all the time,” said Wilcox, who threw out the first pitch at a recent Myrtle Beach Pelicans baseball game. “I’m just so familiar with it and it’s so close to home.”

Wilcox himself was in need of assistance earlier this year – from heart surgeons.

He went for a physical check-up on an off day following a March 7 game and doctors detected an expansion of Wilcox’s aortic root, causing it to become thin to the point it was susceptible to tearing and possibly blocking a heart valve.

“When [the doctor] came in the room he told me I had to have surgery and all this,” Wilcox recalled. “I was like, ‘Let me go get a second opinion. You might have the wrong paperwork or something.’ When I got a second opinion, the second opinion was worse than the first one. That’s when I really knew right then that it was serious.”

Within a couple weeks of his second opinion Wilcox had surgery at the Cleveland Clinic to install a graph of material to prevent aortic expansion. Within the past month he was cleared to return to practicing and physical contact on the court.

“Now things are going great,” Wilcox said. “Things are working out for me. It’s been a blessing through it all. … They caught it right on time.”

Wilcox recently signed a one-year deal with the Celtics, with whom he signed a one-year deal prior to this past season.

“I’m definitely excited to be back with them,” Wilcox said. “They’ve been with me through everything I’ve gone through in the last year. They stuck by me and have given me an opportunity to get back and play on the court, so I’m just looking forward to that.”

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 843-626-0284.

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