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Nothing But Nets Blog
What does a globally acclaimed cosmetic company and Chicago’s own WNBA team have in common? They each have an unbelievable passion to use their respective areas of influence to make the world a better place!! My coaches and teammates from the Chicago Sky joined me at Amazing Cosmetics’ studio in Libertyville for a wonderful day of food and fun where all the proceeds went back to Nothing But Nets.
As we go through this journey of life, there are a few significant experiences that influence us in such substantial ways that they alter the course we are on and the way we perceive our purpose here on earth. For me, one of those experiences was representing the WNBA as one of the founding spokespeople with the UN Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign. As the campaign celebrates its 5th year fighting malaria, I cannot help but reflect on both how this campaign has impacted my life, and -- more importantly -- the millions of lives that have been saved in this short time span.
Some charitable organizations are scrutinized for the way they handle their funds - but I can without a doubt say that I have faith that the UN Foundation exhibits the utmost integrity when managing and allocating the donations they have received. Without a doubt, their focus is making sure your $10 donation is used to cover the cost of purchasing a long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed net, distributing it, and educating communities on its use. I’ve seen the impact of these donations on multiple trips to Africa with Nothing But Nets, as well as with one of its founding partners, the United Methodist Church.
The connection between the newly crowned World Cup Champions of Spain and the continent of Africa goes beyond South Africa hosting this year's tournament. As España's soccer team was busy fighting to be the world's best on the field, a group of former Spanish basketball legends and celebrities were busy playing in a game of their own where the proceeds would support Nothing But Nets™ in their global fight against malaria! The 2nd annual "Partido Contra La Malaria" celebrity basketball game took place at the La Plana sports hall in Barcelona where Team Vida (Life) played against Team Deporte (Sport).
In addition to the renowned former men???s basketball players, other participants included Sergi Bruguera, former champion of Roland Garros; Mireia Belmonte, Olympian and European swimming Champion and Jordi "Chiqui" Sans, international and five-time water polo Olympian. The teams were also mixed with four Spanish women's national team players, Lucila Pascua, Anna Cruz, Laura Camps and Silvia Dominguez. It was undeniably a very exciting and competitive game, with the final score, in the high 80s. But the points that were scored were insignificant compared to the satisfaction that all the participants felt in contributing to the fight against such a deadly disease.
Taking part in the United Against Malaria events on Capital Hill last week opened my eyes to an aspect of being a spokesperson that I had not yet contemplated. Over the years, I have shared with you all the details of my trips to Africa, essentially being the voice for the mothers and children that I encountered whose lives are fatally touched by malaria. I have also had the opportunity to share my experiences here in the United States, from elementary school drives to faith-based activities to our own sporting events.
My recent visit to Congress shed light on an area that until now has eluded my attention: encouraging YOU to use YOUR voice. I am slightly ashamed to admit that I was naive to the world of advocacy and politics. As a spokesperson I just assumed that my job was to create awareness and encourage people to make the simple $10 donation to save a life. I did not realize that your voice is equally as important and impactful as your financial contribution. From the Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office to various other members of Congress that we visited, there proved to be a common theme throughout all of our meetings.
Re-gifting has truly become an art form these days. We have all re-gifted at least once in our lives, or are guilty of thinking about it! You get a present and you have no idea what you are going to do with it, or you wonder if it's possible to repackage it and give to someone else. Maybe it was the wool holiday sweater from Aunt Suzie that looks like a Christmas explosion, or the bonus pack of tube socks from Uncle Bob.
Usually, we get our presents, and then decide to re-gift. But what if we thought about that before we ever started tearing off the wrapping paper?
Annika Snow was about to celebrate her 8th birthday. After learning about Nothing But Nets from her Methodist church and then again from me at our WNBA game earlier this season, she decided to re-gift her birthday presents to provide bed nets for children in Africa. She did not ask for dolls or clothes or games - instead, she asked for everyone to write a check to Nothing But Nets on her behalf!
The UN Foundation, WNBA/NBA and the People of The United Methodist Church have all been founding partners with Nothing But Nets since its inception in 2006. As I humbly received the check for $46,500 from Bishop Jim Dorff and the Southwest Texas and Rio Grande United Methodist Churches, I could not help but be amazed at the power of partnerships.
Nothing But Nets continues to be an integral initiative in our NBA/WNBA Cares portfolio as we educate our fan bases on the devastation of malaria, and raise money through silent auctions and a percentage of ticket sales. The People of The United Methodist Church have likewise adopted Nothing But Nets as a focus of their ministry, mobilizing their parishioners to help raise money and awareness, as well as using their missionaries in Africa to help with the distribution of nets and the provision of healthcare services in their clinics.
This year, World Malaria Day proved to reinforce for me that malaria is not just a problem in Africa and Nothing But Nets is not just a campaign limited to the United States. Malaria is a global issue and therefore a universal approach can and must be taken in order to provide a solution.
Over the last two and a half years as a spokesperson for Nothing But Nets, I have traveled to Africa, saw first-hand the devastating effects of malaria, came back to the U.S., shared passionately with you all what I saw, then went back to Africa as we delivered the nets you so generously provided. This year, my role as a spokesperson took a little detour as I found myself finishing up my basketball season overseas when April 25th—World Malaria Day—rolled around.
A big thanks to the 670 men, women and children who came out for the Silver Stars annual 5K run/walk for Nothing But Nets! As an athlete, I work out almost every day. However, it is rare to participate in an event where people are simultaneously working towards creating healthier individuals and a healthier world!
I met two adorable little boys who were participating in the race with their parents. One of them noticed the mosquito on my "Buzzkill" t-shirt and informed me that he didn't like mosquitoes. He went on to say, "Whenever I see a mosquito, I just hit him like this" (and starts slapping an imaginary mosquito on his arm).
Every Wednesday since 2004, in the remote village of Konodimini, Mali, a selected group of women called Wassa (which translates to "satisfaction") has gathered together to discuss the health of their community as well as the self-imposed micro-economic system that they established...
As I walked into Brown Elementary School last week in San Antonio, TX, I first noticed three mini portable basketball hoops in the hallway. The hoops held donations from Brown students and their families, and had nets tied to their bases to ensure that the donations were kept safely.
The students at Brown have been studying about Africa, malaria, and Nothing But Nets throughout the fall. They have been working hard to raise money for the Campaign, and the students are extremely enthusiastic about saving lives of children living an ocean away! Many of them told me that when their parents tuck them in at night, they are happy to think that with their $10 donation, a child in Africa will also be tucked in to sleep safely under a bed net!
After I gave a presentation about malaria and Nothing But Nets, my uncle posed a free throw challenge to myself and the crowd. The challenge consisted of me shooting ten free throws and people pledging donations for every shot that I made. My uncle personally pledged $100 per shot.
It is an exciting day when I get to combine two things that I am very passionate about: the WNBA and Nothing But Nets. During halftime of our game against the Mystics in Washington D.C. last week, Nakia Sanford of the Mystics and I were able to share some of our experiences in support of this effort to save lives by preventing malaria with the crowd.
As a spokesperson, it is not only my responsibility, but more importantly my privilege to share what I have learned and to encourage others to get involved. Although Nakia and I were battling it out on the court during the game, it was great to take a few minutes to talk about something that neutralized the competitiveness of our game.
You see, when it comes to fighting Malaria, we are all on the same team!
Maybe it was a by-product of growing up in a single parent home, but I identify power, courage and resiliency with being a woman. As a little girl, I remember thinking that nothing was impossible for my mom. She exuded independence, strength, and determination. Regardless of the meager means by which we lived on, she still made us feel loved.
As I carry that prototype of a woman with me when I travel, I see pieces of my mom in the women I met over in Africa. Often left to raise their children alone, they make do with the resources they have before them. It is the combination of their strength to carry the burden of the family, their mindset of survival, and their ability to somehow remain compassionate and nurturing that leads me to conclude that these remarkable qualities of a woman are universal.
"What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!" Not exactly. What happened in Vegas was only an introduction between many basketball fans and Nothing But Nets . . .I have no doubt there is more to come!!
Recently back from Africa, the NBA all-star game provided me with my first real opportunity to share with players, fans, and sponsors about Nothing But Nets. Although "Sin City" is not exactly the first place that comes to mind when you think about creating awareness for humanitarian efforts, it made me realize that regardless of the city or situation, people are compassionate.