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RICHMOND, Va. – Since his arrival at VCU, Head Coach Shaka Smart has stressed the importance of getting involved with the Richmond community, particularly the youth in the area.

Smart is doing that once again this year, teaming up with the FRIENDS Association for Children as part of the Third Annual ESPN/Infiniti Coaches Charity Challenge. The Coaches Charity Challenge brings together 48 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball coaches and the charities of their choice for an online voting contest that runs until the end of the regular season.

Each coach will be split into four different regions with the top vote getter in each region advancing to a two –week final competition with the winning coach's charity receiving a check for $100,000. Each participating coach/charity is guaranteed at least $5,000.

Coach Smart has selected FRIENDS Association for Children, a local non-profit agency, which has been serving children and families in the Richmond community for over 140 years.  Currently, FRIENDS serves nearly 1,000 children, ages six weeks to 17 years.  There are two Richmond locations – the John C. Purnell, Jr. Child Development Center in Jackson Ward and the Robert L. Taylor Childcare Center in Church Hill.  FRIENDS serves children from low-to-moderate income working families, and offers a broad array of services to help them gain critical literacy and developmental skills needed to succeed in school and in life.  These services also help children achieve a greater understanding and appreciation of their community and the world around them.

To cast a vote for Coach Smart and FRIENDS, simply register at (or sign on via Facebook), and look for the Infiniti Coaches Charity Challenge banner.  Votes can be made daily throughout the contest. VOTE SMART!

Voting Schedule:

Voting Begins – Jan. 14, 2013 , 3 p.m.

Regional Voting Ends – Feb. 27, 2013,  11:49 a.m.

Final Four Voting Begins – Feb. 27, 2013, 1 p.m.

Final Four Voting Ends – Mar. 10, 2013, 11:49 a.m.

Winner Announced – Mar. 11, 2013