CINCINNATI -- When Xavier men’s basketball coach Chris Mack and his wife Christi formed the Mack Family Foundation to help less fortunate kids, they knew literacy would be a big component of their charitable endeavors.
Mack loved to read as a kid -- his favorite book was “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein -- and so did Christi. Their kids Lainee, Hailee and Brayden have developed an affinity for books, too.
The entire Mack family helped unveil Coach Mack’s Corner in the Pleasant Hill Academy library Tuesday. Designed to help elementary-aged kids kick back with a good book, the area was decked out with beanbag chairs and wall decor featuring Cintas Center’s court and larger-than-life pictures of Mack coaching.
The Foundation also donated 600 books appropriate for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade.
“Literacy is a huge part of a child’s development,” Chris Mack said. “Kids can develop a love of reading, a love of learning that they can carry the rest of their lives and open up doors of opportunity they didn’t even know existed.”
The Macks have organized other events for their Foundation, from a Kids Mack-a-Thon Challenge at Xavier to a coat drive for the DCCH Center for Children and Families in Fort Mitchell. But they wanted to start Coach Mack’s Corner a little closer to home. Mack’s childhood home, that is.
Mack used to play soccer on the field where Pleasant Hill Academy was built. He grew up just miles away from the school in North College Hill.
“It’s something that I think is really cool for me to give back to a community that I really truly grew up in and know like the back of my hand,” Mack said.
The Mack kids joined other elementary students in listening to Chris Mack read a book aloud. After an introduction by Xavier Hall of Famer and radio broadcaster Joe Sunderman, Mack read “Curious George Joins the Team.”
Christi Mack said one of the reasons the family started the foundation was to broaden the horizons of their daughters, who have reached ages where they can understand the impact of helping others. She said it was “neat to see them truly understand it” Tuesday.
“And not just to see, but to feel it. The kids sitting among them today are kids their age. To know the enjoyment I see our kids get out of reading and going to school -- hopefully these kids will be excited when they come in this library,” Christi Mack said.
The Macks plan to add more Coach Mack’s Corners throughout the city but have not yet selected their next destination.
Before a ribbon cutting and photos, Mack answered a few questions from the elementary kids. They asked why he wanted to be a coach and whether he liked soccer.
“I loved soccer. Then I got too tall,” Mack said, drawing laughs. “It was hard to find the ball way down there. Those little guys were taking the ball from me.”
His main message to the students was simple: Read.
“I would tell you reading’s a lot like basketball. If you want to be a good basketball player, what do you think you have to do?” Mack said.
“You have to practice. If you do the same thing with your books -- find a book you really, really enjoy and read it all the way from the first page to the last -- it’s going to open a lot of doors for you. Challenge yourself. How many books can you read over the summer? It’s going to help you get smarter and smarter.”