Karl Malone has made plenty of deliveries during his NBA career, but none as special as the one he made to the Navajo reservation rugged in southeastern Utah last week.
Malone, driving the first of two semi-trailer trucks loaded with donated food, clothing and toys, arrived amid cheers on the isolated reservation July 26.The humanitarian mission, a cooperative effort between the Karl Malone Foundation for Kids and Ya'at'eeh Kemish (Navajo Santa) Inc., was funded in part by earnings from Malone's recent foray into professional wrestling.
"The Karl Malone Foundation for Kids has done a wonderful thing for us, and I don't think we could ever fully express our gratitude." said Kenneth Maryboy, president of Ya'at'eeh Kemish. "Many of these people would not survive without help of others and for Karl Malone to come here personally means a great deal to all of us."
The visit also meant a lot to the Mailman.
"This exchange that we've had in the past few days really hit home," Malone said reflecting on his two-day stay, with wife Kay, on the reservation. "And it's made me believe that there is a real need for my foundation and the things we can do. I have a great respect for Kenneth Maryboy and his hard work and efforts to take care of his people."
The reservation, which covers a remote 2,000-square-mile area in southeast Utah, is home to 6,000 Navajos. Many services currently provided by the Navajo Nation do not reach the people on the Utah side of the reservation. Sixty percent live in isolated areas without water and electricity. More than half are below the poverty level.
Due to the remoteness of the reservation, many supplies were transferred from the semi-trailers to four-wheel drive vehicles for delivery to those unable to travel to the Maryboy village complex.
Storage of supplies was also complicated by the burning heat of late July, requiring the foundation to construct a large storage unit ahead of time so as to be able to shelter the donated goods.
Working side by side, Malone, foundation volunteers and Navajo community members unloaded the two trucks which contained among other things 300 cases of food, hundreds of boxes of shirts and pants, more than 200 sleeping bags, 1,000 pairs of shoes and 300 fishing poles.
It's hard to put into words the emotions Karl, his wife Kay, and the rest of us felt during the two days we spent on the reservation," said Lori Rupp, who heads up the Karl Malone Foundation. "I'm grateful for all those who helped make this trip possible. While we were able, through the foundation, to give to provide them with some basic living needs, they gave to us something more valuable in return - their friendship."
The Navajo people honored the Malones and foundation volunteers with a dinner on the reservation. Karl was presented with a silver rodeo belt buckle and Kay was given a turquoise necklace. The Malones also received a blessing from the tribe's medicine man.
"I went down to the Navajo Nation to something good for other people," Karl Malone said. "And I came back feeling pretty good about myself."