Steph Curry and Ayesha Curry

Steph Curry and Ayesha Curry: Using the Eat Play Learn Foundation to Strengthen Communities

Changes the game. The phrase is frequently used to refer to the greatest shooter to ever play in the NBA. The true shift, however, is taking place off the court, where this team is committed to uplifting the youth in their neighborhood and beyond.

When the Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation holds its third annual summer fun day for the kids of Oakland, California, something is missing—a few things, in fαct. Stephen and Ayesha Curry, the organization’s founders, work in the heat alongside volunteers to finish constructing a playground as the event gets underway on a late July morning in the Fruitvale neighborhood of the city. There are slides, jungle gyms, monkey bars, and vibrantly patterned walls in the space, which was created by the children who will use it; however, there isn’t a single step-and-repeat carpet, self-congratulatory commemorative plaque, or statue to be found.

Ayesha and Steph watch the Oakland A’s take on the Houston Astros as the day’s festivities continue a few miles south at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum with 1,200 children while high-fiving and passing popcorn. Stephen hangs out with the kids on the field after the game and participates in numerous races around the basepaths with them. There are pictures taken with the kids and autographs given, but there are no speeches, no awards, no silent auctions, and no capital campaigns. Instead, each child receives a backpack full of books, which the NBA star helps distribute. Ayesha’s ceremonial first pitch flies to the batter’s box while Steph’s sails wide and almost hιts the photographers. There are a few pitches, but they are not aimed at donors but at home plate. A mistake was made with the wild pitch, but not with the lack of fanfare. It’s not a bug, as the expression goes in Silicon Valley; it’s a feature.

Impact rather than legacy. Three simple words are all that is necessary for the greatest three-point shooter in history to convey the philosophy that guides his conduct off the court. “We always talk about making it about the work,” says Stephen. It’s bigger than our names and bigger than just ourselves.

Although he is a vocal supporter of racial equality and voting rights, he is referring specifically to Eat. Learn. Play. Eat. Learn. Play. has assisted thousands of children in Oakland since its founding in 2019, creating playgrounds and schoolyards all over the city, distributing more than 500,000 books, and assisting in the distribution of more than 25 million meals and 2 million pounds of produce. With the help of organizations like World Central Kitchen, No Kid Hungry, and Kaboom!, as well as corporations like Workday, Rakuten, Kaiser Permanente, and Under Armour (the latter of which is reportedly negotiating a lifetime contract with Curry worth more than $1 billion), it has attracted a variety of partners. Stephen and Ayesha avoid being pushy when it comes to fundraising. I won’t ever pull your chain, Ayesha declares. Instead, they create a coalition of receptive allies by presenting data and figures. Several are : Only 1 in 3 third graders nationwide read at grade level, and in Oakland, only 15.4 percent of Black and 12.5 percent of Latino elementary school students did the same. There is a natural gravitational pull, according to Steph, when you are passionate about something. The mission is self-selling.

Billy Shore, the creator of Share Our Strength, which runs the No Kid Hungry campaign, claims that “Stephen and Ayesha really see and appreciate the interconnection between hunger, education, and kids’ health, unlike a lot of prominent people lending their voices.” And that’s an enormous leap. Having worked in this field for a long time, I say this. You are constantly pushing a rock up a hill that will keep falling back down on you until you make that connection.

Riley, Ryan, and Canon Curry, the children of Steph and Ayesha Curry, make charitable giving a family affair.


Steph is seated on a sofa with a sticker-covered MacBook Pro open on his knees two days before the summer fun day. The 34-year-old Golden State Warrior is catching up on administrative work ahead of the foundation’s anniversary event while wearing a navy polo shirt with the top buttoned, designer track pants, and a black pair of shoes from his Under Armour line. He kept a promise he made to himself in 2009 when he declared for the NBA draft after his junior season and graduated from Davidson College with a sociology degree in the spring of that year. His thesis topic was gender equality in sports. Stephen Curry now spends his time in this manner, barely a month after winning his fourth championship and first NBA Finals MVP, catapulting him into the conversation for the title of greatest player ever.

Ayesha eventually joins him on the couch after a short while. The 33-year-old is a celebrity in her own right as a restaurateur, restauratrix, TV personality, influencer, author of cookbooks, and actress. The couple sought to establish a foundation that would channel their interests after first meeting in church as teenagers. We were aware that our hearts belonged to the neighborhood, says Ayesha. “When it came to the causes we wanted to promote, education and being active were always top priorities for him. For me, it was always about food and going hungry as a kid.

Impact rather than legacy. The Currys’ philanthropic motto, “make it about the work,” serves as a constant reminder.Blazer by Brunello Cucinelli, $5,495.


Thus, the slogan “Eat. Learn. Play.” They didn’t want something like the Stephen and Ayesha Curry Foundation; it was brief, descriptive, and memorable. (However, when they applied for nonprofit status, that is precisely what their business managers initially registered. The incorrect supposition was “discussed.” Ayesha has always avoided initiatives that glorify contributors as saviors. “That kind of help is very self-validating for a lot of people,” she claims. “We do not wish to promote that. Neither goal one nor even 1,000 applied.

The Currys have shaped Eat. Learn. Play. in their likeness despite not founding a foundation in their name. The CEO and the first employee the Currys brought on board at Eat. Learn. Play, Chris Helfrich, says that “the two words most often associated with Ayesha and Stephen are joy and authenticity.” It’s essential that we uphold those principles in everything Eat. Learn. Play. pursues.

Even the name of the organization serves as a caution to maintain perspective. Steph explains, “The fαct that play is in the foundation’s name. “We don’t want to come across as arrogant or distant. Wherever people are, that is where we want to be. These are just soundbites; you must actually live them and show them in everything you do. Spread happiness and honor everyone’s dignity. We need to be very deliberate about that. They want to get rid of the bad reputation that aid programs have. “There’s such a stigma attached to it,” explains Ayesha. Nobody wants to appear to be receiving assistance, whether they are adults or children. Thus, our goal is to make it enjoyable for you. We aimed to give the impression that it was merely a fixture in the neighborhood. You need something if you need it. Even so, stop by and say hello. Our efforts are greatly helped by reducing the stigma.

“Like the bus,” Steph continues, “being able to turn it into the educational ice cream truck.” He is referring to a modified school bus that doubles as a mobile food bank and lending library. It is covered in a vibrant street art mural. A roof deck, sound system, and of course a backboard and hoop are also included.

We’re like the Montessori of nonprofits, Ayesha grins.

There is no shortage of powerful friends and unofficial advisors for Stephen and Ayesha. Barack and Michelle Obama, as well as Vice President Kamala Harris, are their pals. Steph received a congratulations call from his friend the former president on the very first call he made after hoisting the championship trophy in June, with his jersey still covered in champagne. Stephen may have tried to make a global impact as a celebrity with international appeal. Instead, he made the decision to stay in Oakland, where he and Ayesha had their roots. It’s no coincidence that they started Eat. Learn. Play. in 2019—47 seasons after the Warriors left Oakland for the much wealthier and less diverse San Francisco. Stephen and Ayesha wanted to reaffirm their ties to Oakland, their 13-year hometown and the place where they had their first child, son Canon, and two daughters, Riley and Ryan. Steph says, “This is a community that supports us. We wanted to establish our presence here and achieve our objectives there.

There is a natural gravitational pull, according to Steph, when you are passionate about something. The mission is self-selling.Blazer by Brunello Cucinelli, $4,775.Watch by Vacheron Constantine, $39,000

That emphasis on the local community was essential in luring Arne Duncan, the former secretary of education and a member of Obama’s cabinet, to the Eat. Learn. Play. board. They could have started by taking action at the national level. They could have worked internationally, but instead they began locally, according to Duncan. “Is that a model that can be replicated in other cities if they can achieve the kind of things they want to do—really raising reading levels in the community, giving kids a chance at life, helping them build healthy lifestyles? Absolutely. Is that a model that can be applied both domestically and abroad? Absolutely. It hasn’t arrived yet. However, it is vital that they concentrate entirely on one community rather than dispersing themselves too thinly. It ultimately comes down to the labor. The Steph and Ayesha show isn’t here.

Stephen’s dedication to charity began at home. In Charlotte, North Carolina, where he was growing up, he volunteered at the computer literacy program for underprivileged children that his father, NBA player Dell Curry, founded. In his 16 NBA seasons, Dell spent 10 of those in Charlotte. Early in his professional career, Stephen traveled with Helfrich to refugee camps in northern Tanzania that housed people fleeing the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He felt so strongly about that mission for the UN Nothing But Nets program that he neglected to celebrate his wedding anniversary and left Ayesha in charge of Riley, who was just three weeks old, in order to visit the health clinics and see firsthand the devastation caused by malaria. Steph cries at the memory, “It moved me and made me see that even small changes can have this outsized impact.” Since 2000, the distribution of $5 mosquito nets has prevented 7 million deaths in Africa. He says, “We want to find a treatment for malaria, but we can also take these easy steps to curb its spread. “You can invest bιllions in the search for a cure, which is fantastic, but for so little you can save lives right now.” His philosophy of generosity was influenced by the emphasis on having an instant impact.

Ayesha was raised in Toronto, where she assisted her parents in preparing hot meals for the homeless on special occasions and delivering them along with clothing and blankets. She used her International Smoke restaurants to help feed the underprivileged when the pandemic hιt. Later, she found herself on the phone with Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the house, pleading for the extension of school lunch programs despite the closure of the schools. $8 billion in federal nutrition assistance was included in a funding bill that was approved. Then, in order to help close the childhood food gap, she virtually testified before the House Committee on Rules and the Congressional Hunger Caucus in April of last year. She urged lawmakers to “be kid-partisan.”

Already, the couple has been able to transmit their philosophy. With the intention of supporting Eat. Learn. Play, Riley, 10, and her best friend spent the majority of their summer break writing a cookbook. “I love the direction that her heart is flowing,” Ayesha exclaims. “As her parents, it’s been really wonderful to witness.”

Stephen and Ayesha are aware of the doubts people have regarding their efforts to halt global warming. Ayesha says, “I saw this quote that basically said, beware anyone who says they’re trying to save the world.” “We most certainly are not attempting to do that. We’re working to advance our neighborhood. After that, we can discuss other locations.

That’s accurate. You crawl first,” Stephen explains. There is still much to be done in Oakland. “We want to make sure that we’re sticking to our word and making the most impact where we vowed to make the impact first,” adds Ayesha. Steph, however, points out that while their work is novel, it is also open-source and could be used and modified by other communities.

According to Helfrich, the questions have poured in, and they are noticing their model appearing elsewhere. The Curry family and Eat. Learn. Play. are deeply committed to Oakland, but they are not content to stand still. Through Unanimous Media, their production firm, they are developing brand collaborations, investment opportunities, and narrative chances. Unanimous Media and NBC Universal entered into a partnership last year.

The beauty and high ceiling of all of this, says Steph, is that momentum exists even if we are not in the foreground. “All of these things are beginning to work together much better. If basketball ends, that will create a very, very long runway.

Stephen’s retirement from the NBA is not imminent because he is in good health and still has four years left on his contract, but he and Ayesha are getting ready for it as they collaborate with Helfrich on a three- to five-year expansion plan. Duncan and others think that’s the time when the Currys will have their greatest impact and change society in a similar way to how Stephen has changed basketball.

Stephen rubs his chin while grinning at the idea. The work will continue even after the ball stops bouncing, he asserts. It’s only just beginning, right?