It’s like nothing DeMar DeRozan has ever received. 100 pages full of encouraging words from Toronto Raptors fans gifted to the all-star shooting guard after he wrote publicly about his depression.
“The book means everything,” said DeRozan on Sunday at an Air Canada Centre meeting room, as eight young fans handed him a published book full of letters of support from fans.
“The creativity, I can’t wait to get into the locker room and go through it and read it and everything. Them taking out the time, being able to think of me and doing something for me is definitely awesome.”
The idea for a published book showing support for DeRozan from his fan-base came about in mid-February, after the 28-year-old tweeted “This depression get the best of me.”
“I was surprised,” said Raptors fan Syed Hasny. “It’s not something you can expect a person in his position or a man of his stature. We should do something as fans and people who really like to support him.”
Hasny found an entire community online, specifically on the social media site Reddit, who felt the same way he did. Strangers — with nothing much in common except for their love for DeMar DeRozan — decided to brainstorm how they can show the point-guard that he is loved in the city. And so the idea for a published book of fan letters was born.
“The point of the book was just to show him that we have him as well,” said Raptors fan Aleks Sanjevic. “Everyone goes through tough times, it doesn’t matter who you are, a celebrity or just anybody, we just want to show him that our whole fan-base has you. You’re not going through it alone, we all have you.”
The book, titled “Don’t Worry We Got You,” is in response to a well-known message by DeRozan. In June 2010, the Compton-native tweeted “Don’t worry, I got us…” after popular Raptors centre, Chris Bosh, left for Miami.
“[The book] is a play on his tweet from a few years ago, just saying ‘don’t worry, we got you during your tough times,'” said Sanjevic.
The Raptors fans behind the book say they were motivated by everything DeRozan has done for Toronto, and publishing the letters was the least they could do.
“The book is filled with whatever people wanted to say or show DeRozan,” said Hasny. “There are a lot of people who talk about their own struggles, their struggle with depression and types of addiction. They talk about how watching the Raptors and watching the team and DeRozan himself has helped them. And seeing him battle it publicly is inspiring them to battle it themselves.”
The group started a GoFundMe page with the aim to raise $80 to turn the heartfelt letters into a book, but the initiative ended up raising more than $3,600. The group behind the project said a couple of hundred dollars went towards the book and the rest was donated to Lupus Canada.
“[DeRozan] is affiliated with Lupus Canada and his mother really suffers from Lupus and that’s something that has gotten worse, so we really wanted to raise some money for him,” said Raptors fan Judith Wong.
“It means a lot,” said DeRozan. “Me sharing a personal experience, it’s something that my mother’s suffered from, my aunt as well. Anything I can do to bring awareness and help, this is what it’s all about, honestly.”
But for the fans who got to present the cheque, the best gift was getting to meet the man they idolize. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Raptors fan Ayishwin Suresh. “It’s always been my dream to meet DeRozan.”
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