Dwyane Wade went to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to console, comfort. He left inspired.
Speaking Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena, a day after he went to Parkland for the first day of school after the horrific Feb. 14 shootings that left 17 dead on campus, the Miami Heat guard said Wednesday's experience left him convinced about the future of the youths he visited with during the impromptu appearance.
"I went there with two things in mind," he said in the hours before his team played the Philadelphia 76ers. "One is to bring a moment of joy, knowing it was their first full day back at school, knowing it was going to be a tough day for a lot of the kids. And the second thing was to sit down with the leaders of the school and kind of talk to them about: What's the next steps, and what are they trying to accomplish and what are they trying to do? And, as an individual, how can I be involved to help them?
"So I got an opportunity to sit down and talk about a lot of great things they're doing, a lot of plans they have for the future that I'm excited about getting behind and supporting."
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He said while many drew encouragement from his appearance, he drew inspiration from the discussion he had with students and school leaders about curbing school violence and addressing other social issues.
"They are well prepared and well aware of what they need to do and what they want to do and the change they want to see," he said. "And it's great. It's great to see that, because I come from a community in Chicago where our youth are getting killed daily and don't have the same voice, don't have the same light on them that Parkland has.
"And these kids understand what they have and they're taking other kids with 'em. So they've met with Chicago. They've met with the kids from the inner city of Chicago and trying to see how they can team up to do things. They're just on top of it. It was very impressive to be in a room, sitting there with these young future leaders. They definitely taught me some things that I didn't know. So they are very impressive."
Coach Erik Spoelstra and Heat players Kelly Olynyk, Justise Winslow and Udonis Haslem met with wounded students last week, but Spoelstra said Thursday he appreciated the magnitude of someone of Wade's celebrity status to lend his support and voice.
"It just gives you goose bumps," Spoelstra said.
"The resiliency of the kids up in Parkland really, truly is remarkable. It's inspiring. It's a call to action for all of us and we're honored to be just a small part of it, to support them and hopefully give them all a much bigger megaphone. We can help with that, but what bigger megaphone can you have than Dwyane Wade going down there and allowing their voices to be heard so many other places? That's powerful."
Wade said he discussed the planned March 24 march on Washington, saying he will at least be there in spirit, with the rally planned between Heat road games on March 23 against the Oklahoma City Thunder and March 25 against the Indiana Pacers.
"Our schedule is a little tough here coming down the stretch," he said. "So I don't even know if that's possible."
But he said to be with the students on their first day back to class inspired him as much as he tried to inspire them.
"You might think I'm lying," he said, "but I'm being truthful, I didn't expect that at all. I didn't expect that kind of reaction. Like I said, I knew it was a tough day for them going back for their first full day. I definitely wanted to bring an element of surprise, an element of joy. But the reaction was unbelievable.
"And, you know, it was great to see. It was great to feel. It was great to feel their energy, their vibe and it carried them throughout the whole day. It carried me for the rest of the day, as well."
Wade made his way to Parkland just hours after the Heat returned from a grueling overtime road loss to the Washington Wizards.
"It was a good day for them and for me to have just a moment of face time with them, just a few little words, encouragement," he said. "I talked to the different groups while I was there, in different settings. And it was cool.
"So I'm glad that I did it. I'm glad that our schedule allowed for me to be up there, to show up there for their first full day back to school."