LOS ANGELES — “We have a start line and there’s thousands of people and he actually walked down to the start line and it was like a mob scene,” said Elise Buik.
Buik is the CEO of the United Way Los Angeles. She worked with Kobe Bryant for three straight years as the Los Angeles Lakers legend was the chairman of the Home Walk, an event to help raise awareness and money to fight homelessness.
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“So, the next two years we actually built a bridge where we walked up on the bridge because he really wanted to see everybody,” she added.
Kobe and his wife Vanessa’s foundation was largely focused on homelessness supporting multiple homeless facilities in Los Angeles well before it became a major topic of discussion.
Buik says Kobe’s gameday daily commute was what opened his eyes to a major problem.
“He said to me he feels like Downtown L.A. and Staples is his house and he would leave at night and see people, even back then who were on the streets. It would deeply trouble him,” Buik said.
With Kobe involved in the Home Walk, the United Way L.A. had their best Home Walks ever.
In 2013, 12,000 people came out, and they raised $1.3 million, their largest amount ever.
“I felt that people were really connected to him, his warmth, his humanity, and his empathy. Every photo you see of him and Vanessa, they’re both smiling, just were fully present,” Buik continued.
She hopes Kobe’s work will inspire someone else to their part in the fight against homelessness.