The former Seattle Sonic power forward started hosting celebrity golf tournaments and galas for children’s charities in 1993. This year’s will be his last.
One of the Last Sonics Standing is leaving the philanthropy game.
After 24 years and some $20 million raised, former Seattle Sonics power forward Detlef Schrempf is putting on his last Ripple of Giving Gala — a charitable event he started when basketball was alive and thriving in Seattle.
“It has always surprised me that we were still able to do it,” Schrempf said the other day. “When we started this, the Sonics were the hottest ticket in town, sold out every night, 17,000 people screaming. We had an average 60 wins for four years.
“We were pretty popular at the time and we capitalized on that. So we thought that when there was no more team, people would shift their money to other causes.”
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They didn’t. For nine years after the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City in 2008, Schrempf, his wife, Mari and their partner Nicole Morrison have welcomed loyal sponsors and attendees to the event — some of whom were just happy to be in the room with someone who represented a time and team they still yearn for.
“People miss the Sonics,” he said. “But they also believe in the product we put on and the charities we’ve supported.”
They’re calling the final gala the “Last Splash,” to be held June 24 at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue. The event — along with a celebrity golf tournament — has supported more than 100 children’s charities in the Northwest.
Schrempf entered the fundraising world in 1994, when he was traded back to the Sonics from Indiana. At the time, “the hot thing” was celebrity golf tournaments, he said, so Schrempf and his wife, Mari, filed the paperwork to put one on with an accompanying fundraising dinner. They founded The Detlef Schrempf Foundation in 1996.
Over the years, Ripples of Giving grew, and participants and sponsors stayed, year after year.
“We created a family feeling,” Schrempf said. “A lot of our sponsors have become friends, and that’s part of the reason it’s time to step back. Sixty or 70 percent of the money is from friends. You always ask the same people.”
So the Schrempfs and their team are ready for a break — and to make room for other, younger professional athletes to pick up the philanthropic reins.
Schrempf, now 54 — and…