Putting my best foot forward

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By helping those less fortunate back in Jamaica, Tina Charles kept a promise to herself from her childhood.

When you look back on your childhood, it's difficult to pinpoint exactly when something impressed you as wrong. You might have looked at a situation for years without realizing what you were seeing. Then one day you reach an age where you begin to have a better understanding of the world around you, and your whole perspective changes.

Most people who have followed my basketball career probably know I was born in Queens, N.Y. What they may not know is that I have deep roots in the Caribbean Islands. My father, Rawlston Charles, is from Trinidad and Tobago, and my mother, Angella Murry, was born and raised with four sisters and one brother in Kingston, Jamaica, the capital and the largest city in the country.

Her mother -- my grandmother Naomi Holgate -- was the principal of the Holgate Primary Basic School. She ran the school for more than 30 years, from September 1973 to July 2005. The Holgate Primary Basic School was an addition to the back of the family home. It had four classrooms and served children from pre-kindergarten to first grade.

From the time I was 3 years old, my mother and I would visit our family in Jamaica for holidays and summer vacation. On those visits, I would attend class with the students at my grandmother's school and play with the other children. Nothing about it seemed strange. But as I grew older, I began to notice something that really started to bother me. Some of the children did not have shoes on their feet. As a young child playing with them, I was barefoot too. But that was by choice. At the age of 10, it began to sink in that the children I was playing with didn't have a choice.

I was raised by my parents to be aware of the importance of caring for others, and to believe in the value of giving to those less fortunate. So on the day that I realized what I was seeing in Jamaica, I promised myself I would do something when I was in a position to help.

That day came this past January, when a shipment of athletic shoes I purchased from Nike for the girls' netball, boys' basketball, and girls' and boys' soccer teams was delivered to Saint Jago High School, which is located in Spanish Town, St. Catherine, Jamaica. It is the school where my three aunts and uncle all graduated. It was a special moment to know that I could provide for student-athletes the same way my family had provided for me. A short time after the shoes were delivered, I received a thank-you letter from the school. It made me feel good to know I had kept that promise I made to myself way back when I was 10 years old.