WNBA Stars Embrace WNBA Cares Events

In celebration of the WNBA’s 16th season, the league, its teams and its players will give back to their communities with special events and activities throughout the country. During the week of May 11, WNBA teams will join community members and partners in an effort to support health, education, and environmental awareness programs.

From Washington, DC to Los Angeles to Minnesota, WNBA teams all over are embracing WNBA Cares Week. Here's a glimpse of what this initiative means to some of the players and teams involved.

Minnesota Lynx

The WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx, including 2011 Rookie of the Year Maya Moore, will host a Reading Timeout at Elizabeth Hall International.

Maya Moore
Maya Moore greets a patient of the Wounded Warriors as part of
the 2011 WNBA Cares Community Caravan in Houston.
D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images
Moore will also participate in a Q&A session with the students and distribute special prizes for the children. The Lynx will also host a Fit Clinic at FAIR School with Lynx players while staff members will participate in an All-Staff Volunteer Day to help a local organization with an outdoor project.

For 2011 WNBA Finals MVP Seimone Augustus of the Lynx, participating in WNBA Cares events is personal.

“I can remember when I was young, we didn’t have celebrities or athletes come to our neighborhood and tell us how important it is to be fit and healthy and eat well,” remembered Augustus. “For these kids to see their favorite player, someone they saw on the TV, it can have an impact, like ‘Wow, I just saw this lady on TV and now here she is talking to me, showing me how to be bigger, stronger and faster and to work hard for my goals.”

Augustus, a native of Louisiana, also extolled the virtue of getting out into various communities in Minnesota.

“These events are to benefit the communities, that is the priority,” said Augustus. “But it also opens up doors for us players, who may not have been to Minnesota prior to our playing career. Through these events I’ve been to Minneapolis, of course, where we play, but also to suburban areas, urban areas and rural areas of Minnesota and that has helped me connect with our fans. And one thing about people from all those different areas, Minnesotans are a loving, passionate people, and they love their Lynx and it’s great for me to be able to show that love back. We love them too.”

Los Angeles Sparks

Candace Parker
Candace Parker interacts with fans.
NBAE via Getty Images
This year marks the fourth year the Los Angeles Sparks will help renovate apartments for domestic violence victims. Teaming up with the Jenesse Center and Home Sweet Home, Sparks players will plant flowers, shampoo carpets and paint the walls of a three-story building in Los Angeles that provides emergency shelter to over 500 women a year.

For the team’s star forward Candace Parker, working with the Jenesse Center to help these women strikes a personal chord with her.

“Last year helping out really hit home for me, being a new mom, by seeing what they do to empower women,” she said. “This has always been a great experience for me and I admire these women and relate to them now in wanting to protect your loved ones.”

Last year Parker helped spruce up a nursery at the shelter by cleaning the carpet. Getting involved with simple efforts like this can go a long way, she said.

“I know as a mom I’m not okay if my kids aren’t okay,” she said. “I felt more empowered to help that nursery because I hope these mothers can feel like their children are now in a safe place.”

Washington Mystics

The Washington Mystics are going into their fifth year running a girl’s summer basketball league by partnering with Washington D.C.’s Parks and Recreation Department. The Mystics will also host basketball clinics for boys and girls with their Dreams for Kids program.

Ashley Robinson
Ashley Robinson of the Washington Mystics and Briann January
of the Indiana Fever participate during 'Play' 2012 NBA
Cares Day of Service as part of All-Star Weekend.
Bruce Yeung/NBAE via Getty Images
Mystics center Ashley Robinson said she couldn’t think of a better name than “Dreams for Kids” for the clinics.

“We’re giving these kids a chance to touch, feel and see WNBA players,” she said. “For the girls, it gives them the chance to believe and dream that one day, they can be right there next to us doing what we do. For the boys, it lets them meet women’s basketball players and give them a sense of respect for women’s basketball.”

She added if it weren’t for WNBA events like these, she wouldn’t be where she is today.

“I played in summer leagues and I am a product of what happens when you get exposed to the WNBA as a kid,” Robinson said. “I was 14 years old and I started dreaming. To give other kids that dream, it’s a nice to give them that opportunity too.”

Reaching out to youth with these events help paves the way for future WNBA stars - something Robinson said wasn’t possible until recent years.

“It’s great now for little girls, they now have the WNBA to strive to be in,” she said. “My mother didn’t have that dream. Even some of the WNBA players weren’t able to get into the league until they were in their 30s.”