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The Passing of Former New Jersey Nets owner, Lewis Katz

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

I was shocked to hear of the terrible loss of Lewis Katz in a plane crash late last night in Boston, but not surprised in how the news came to me. One of the projects I've worked on in recent years is called "Build-A-Bike" and the thought behind the project is to get kids working with tools at a young age, to inspire them to perhaps pursue careers in a skilled trade in the automotive industry. Build-A-Bike worked with Boys & Girls Clubs around the country and provided free bicycles (and helmets) to thousands of kids around the country, with the only catch being that they had to help put the bike together.

Last year, we were getting ready to do a Build-A-Bike at the dragstrip at Englishtown, New Jersey, where mechanics and drivers from the NHRA were going to help kids from the Boys & Girls Club put together bikes. The only problem was that we were lacking kids to do it. It wasn't because there weren't Boys & Girls Clubs who wanted to participate, but because the drag strip was so far from where the clubs were located, that the clubs were having a hard time finding a way to get the kids to the track.

Knowing I once lived in New Jersey, my boss asked me if there was anyone there I knew, who might be able to help us get some deserving kids out to the track. The first person I thought of was Lewis Katz, who was one of the owners of the New Jersey Nets while I was there. I knew Mr. Katz was heavily involved in the Boys & Girls Club programs and if anyone could get some kids out to the track, it would be him. As busy and important a man as Mr. Katz (we always referred to him as Mr.) was, I knew I wasn't one phone call away, but he was still within reach, so I made the call to see if he could help. 

Fortunately, we were able to get a great group of kids out to the track before my inquiry made it to Mr. Katz, but I know he would've done whatever he could have to make it happen, if we needed his help. That was simply the kind of person he was. When I heard the news, I immediately called one of my good friends, who had worked for Mr. Katz for several years, fearing he had been on the plane as well. Fortunately, he was not, but he told a great story of the last time he was with Mr. Katz. 

They were in Central Park in New York and Mr. Katz was handing out $100 bills to the homeless, encouraging them to go get a good meal. Some were very appreciative, but many were stunned by the generosity and didn't know how to react. There is always a great void left in the world when we lose a person like Lewis Katz, but it is my hope that when stories of his philanthropy and generosity are shared, it will inspire others to give of their time, treasure or talent, to help make up for the loss.