By Norah Machia
For nearly 25 years, the Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation has focused on improving the quality of life for children in the Syracuse region by supporting innovative and creative programs that offer meaningful ways to help struggling families.
It’s estimated more than 32,000 people in Syracuse are living below the federal poverty line and a recent census report identified the city as having the highest child poverty rate in the country among cities with at least 100,000 people.
“There is no easy solution, but if we all did something, it would help,” said Juli. “We need to work together to turn the lives of these kids around.”
The Boeheim Foundation also funds programs for pediatric and adult cancer patients at Upstate Medical University and Crouse Hospital and has supported several organizations focused on eliminating cancer through research and advocacy.
Their impact on helping children has been a profound one. Since the foundation was established, more than $8.7 million in funding has been awarded through 800 grants to 300 nonprofit organizations responding to many different critical needs in the community.
The couple is beyond grateful for the outpouring of help from the Syracuse community, said Juli. A wide range of businesses, organizations and individuals have thrown their support behind the Boeheim Foundation and its mission. “These donors are celebrating the Syracuse community by giving back to it and really making a difference in the lives of children throughout Central New York,” she said.
While many nonprofit groups have received long-term support from the foundation, new organizations that offer impactful programs to create positive outcomes for children are always welcome to apply.
“We’re trying to help the kids in our community who need it the most,” said Juli. “We work with many different groups to accomplish this goal.” The foundation grants range from $1,000 to $100,000 and no matter the size of the organization, they all offer something important, she added.
After his retirement as Syracuse University head men’s basketball coach following the 2022–23 season, Boeheim was appointed as a special assistant to the athletic director. In October, it was announced that he would join ESPN as an analyst for the upcoming college basketball season and also work as a radio analyst for Westwood One Sports.
Even with his busy schedule, Boeheim plans to continue devoting time to the foundation, which is a top priority for him.
One of his biggest concerns is for young children, particularly those aged 12 to 15, who are not attending school on a regular basis. It’s a situation that was made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, Boeheim said.
“There have been more kids out of school since the pandemic,” and many live in homes with no access to Wi-Fi service for online learning, he added.
“We need resources to make kids want to show up for school,” said Juli Boeheim. It’s important to have schools be a vital focus of the community and create opportunities that allow for partnerships to support students and their families who may be facing issues such as hunger and homelessness, she added.
One of the organizations supported by the Boeheim Foundation for many years is the Boys & Girls Club of Syrac use, which offers a variety of after-school and summer youth programming. Their locations provide a safe space for children to complete their homework and participate in youth recreational activities and the agency partners with several public housing developments for its programs.
“For many children, if they didn’t go to the Boys and Girls Clubs, they wouldn’t get lunch” during the summer months, added Jim.
Programs that help children through sports have deep meaning for the retired basketball coach. He teamed up with New York Knicks star and former SU basketball player Carmelo Anthony to develop the “Courts 4 Kids” program which refurbishes or rebuilds basketball courts at playgrounds in disadvantaged communities throughout the region. The program is supported by the City of Syracuse Department of Parks, Recreation and Youth Programs, Time Warner Cable and TVOne.
Seven new basketball courts have been built on playgrounds for children through the “Courts 4 Kids” program.Boeheim recalled one playground where the kids had seen the workers and asked what was being built, and reacted in shock when told those courts were going to be for them. Some of those kids even offered to help with the project.
In recent years, the foundation has seen more requests for help from organizations working to provide food to struggling families.
“There seems to be more hunger in the community,” said Juli. One of the many organizations supported by the Foundation is the Food Bank of Central New York.
Serving more than 400 emergency food programs, the Food Bank covers a 12,334-square-mile region, helping an increasing number of people facing hunger in Onondaga County and many surrounding communities.
There have also been increasing grant requests from agencies that serve children with special needs, Juli said. One agency supported by the foundation is the Elmcrest Children’s Center, which offers residential care for youth with emotional or behavioral difficulties who are referred through the Family Court system. The organization focuses on education, employment and character building to help youths succeed in the classroom, workplace and community.
Boeheim has supported many charitable causes during his time at Syracuse University, including Coaches vs. Cancer, Boys & Girls Clubs of Syracuse, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Rescue Mission, Upstate Cancer Center and Crouse Hospital.
The couple decided to form their own foundation to continue raising funds for pediatric cancer patients while expanding their efforts to help children with a variety of needs throughout Central New York.
“We wanted to keep the donations closer to home and help people right in the community,” Jim Boeheim said. “We have control over every penny donated, and it all stays local.”
Boeheim had a remarkable run as head coach at his alma mater, ranking second in all-time Division 1 coaching triumphs and making 34 trips into the NCAA Tournament, with five appearances in the Final Four and a 2003 national championship.
In 2005, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and this past April, he received the John R. Woods “Legends of Coaching” Award. Syracuse University named the Carrier Dome court “Jim Boeheim Court” in 2002. Boeheim was named 2001 USA Basketball National Coach of the Year and served as an assistant coach of the U.S. Olympic team that won several gold medals.
Born in Miami and raised in Kentucky, Juli Boeheim was introduced to her future husband at a 1994 Kentucky Derby party. The couple married in 1997 and has three children, Jimmy, and twins Jamie and Jack. Jim Boeheim’s older daughter, Elizabeth, a graduate of Colby College, resides in Montana.
Juli has been the driving force in establishing a major fund-raising event for the foundation, the annual “Basket Ball” gala, a black-tie affair that raises millions in donations for the Central New York Community. The 25th annual event will be held on April 27, 2024, at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino, a major supporter of the Boeheim Foundation.
She has enjoyed connecting with many of the grant recipients and visiting those organizations in the community as often as possible. Along with the fundraising, promoting the good work being done by these groups is also a priority for her.
“We’re trying to help kids in the community who need it the most,” she said. “We’re a small operation with two part-time staff and many dedicated volunteers. Approximately 90% of the money taken in is distributed to the community.”
For more information on the Boeheim Foundation: www.boeheimfoundation.org.