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Thoughts from Blazer’s Edge Night 2018

2306 kids and chaperones packed the Moda Center last night to watch Damian Lillard play the best basketball of his career.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Sacramento Kings 116-99 in the Moda Center last night, behind a phenomenal 26 point, 12 assist effort from Damian Lillard. As Blazer’s Edge readers know, this was also Blazer’s Edge Night 2018, the evening when 2306 children, youth, and chaperones from around the Portland area got to see Lillard and the Blazers play because of your donations.

We’ll share the thank you’s and stories from kids and teachers in a wrap-up post after they’ve all come in, but please take our heartfelt and overwhelming thanks for making this evening possible. Sending 2300+ was a new record. That’s less important from a site pride standpoint than it is from a practical one: even setting a record for donations, this was the first year that we were not able to provide tickets to everyone who wanted to come.

Living our day-to-day lives, most of us don’t realize the level of need out there. Organizing this event, you begin to get a glimpse. The stories are not abstract. Every ticket represents a human being. The requests for tickets, invariably made by adults on behalf of the kids, generally follow a pattern. “I get to see such amazing things from these young people. They seldom get to see how amazing they are. I tell them, but the world gives a negative feedback loop. Just one chance to do something special, just one time when the world says, ‘Somebody cares about you because you’re worth caring about’ —without an agenda, at something beyond a mere subsistence level—would make a huge difference.”

Most of us feel a societal obligation to help people stay alive. We’re not as good at helping people see what they’re living for. Without the second, the first doesn’t have the same color and meaning.

Teachers, counselors, and coaches try to teach this every day, giving their community something to latch onto and grow into. Most of them are of modest means. Pick a kid or two to go to a game? That might be possible. Take a class of 30, plus responsible adults, to create an environmentally-spanning web of trust instead of sub-dividing kids from other kids? That’s beyond the means of most of the adults who pour their hearts out with these students every day. 99% of the time, the biggest and most important lesson remains subtext, theory, and hope.

As the Blazer’s Edge crew moved around the Moda Center last night, among the 2306 and the thousands of others there, we noticed the obvious swarms of students and accompanying adults. You could’t miss the difference in the arena. The hallmark of the evening: those groups were together and they were smiling. Those are subtle indicators—things many of us take for granted—but in context they mean everything. The subtext had become the central lesson. For an evening, anyway, the hope was realized.

Whatever other thanks and stories come in, I think the smiles and togetherness from all those young folks were all the testimony we could hope for. Sometimes 26 and 12 and a 17-point win become more than numbers. They’re a reminder that life can be good. And oh boy, was it.

Thank you to every single person who donated tickets, to Alec Botts at the Trail Blazers ticket office, to Damian Lillard and his teammates for being awesome at basketball, and to all the people who came last night. The game was marvelous, the audience more marvelous still. Congratulations, Blazer’s Edge. Let’s do more next year.

—Dave / @davedeckard / @blazersedge /