I play basketball, but I work just as hard off the court in my community activities as I do when I’m on the court playing my sport.
I love playing the game, certainly, but I also recognize that it has given me the platform to really fuel my passion. Ever since I watched my dad work at community functions when he was in the NBA; and given my own hearing deficiency and troubles with self-esteem as a young girl — I have been passionate about being able to impact the lives of kids.
Winning the WNBA’s Community Assist Award is validation of my efforts, and it really gives me motivation to continue doing more. And the $5,000 donation to my Catch The Stars Foundation doesn’t hurt, either!
For me, just having the opportunity is a great thing. It’s one thing to be able to win awards on the court, but it means a great deal to me, personally, to have the same impact off the court. Helping inspire kids and showing them how to dream of what they want to be means a lot to me.
Last month, our Foundation conducted its annual back to school celebration. In the opening weeks of July, we collected backpacks and school supplies, starting with a party and backpack drive at Chick-Fil-A. Later in the month, we had a fundraiser party at California Pizza Kitchen where we gave away almost 600 backpacks. The kids have fun, we all have fun and, most important, we put smiles on their faces just as they go back to school.
The Catch The Stars Foundation has operated since 2004 and it gets bigger each year. Besides our camps and clinics, one of our biggest commitments is to operate a couple of mentoring programs — STARS for girls and CHAMPS for boys. Both are six-week programs that benefit kids, ages 12-16. Over that time, their two-hour sessions include classroom teaching about life skills, followed by some sort of fitness activity. The donation from the WNBA and State Farm will benefit both our mentoring programs.
My future goal is to expand our programs outside Indianapolis and Indiana. I have done a number of clinics and camps across the country, but my hope is also to expand other programs within Catch The Stars Foundation to locations around the country — probably in areas where I have lived previously like Chicago, Knoxville and near Dallas. What I envision is going to larger cities that don’t have a WNBA or NBA team in their city. I want to be able to bring something new to those areas.
Somebody asked recently which meant more to me — my Olympic medals, last year’s WNBA championship, or recognition from Catch The Stars Foundation?
The truth is, I love what I do in every single aspect. When I’m on the court, I give everything I have. And when I’m out in the community, I give everything I have for my programs. I can’t really compare them. And I don’t think a comparison really is necessary when you have so many things that you love and truly enjoy.