Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury
Anyone who has ever seen Mercury guard Diana Taurasi play basketball knows that she likes to smile. She also liked to make others smile, and that is definitely not just limited to her All-Star play on the basketball court.
Diana Taurasi is a tireless promoter of the game of basketball, but also an advocate for those less fortunate.
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"We partner up with people to help cities build playgrounds for kids," Taurasi said. "I first partnered up with them through my agent, and it's been really good so far. It's a long process, about a year to set the groundwork and see where each playground's actually going to go, what kind of playground it's going to be, and getting it installed."
For her first playground, Taurasi chose the working-class city of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
"Without a doubt, it benefits those in less-than-privleged neighborhoods," she said. "I'm doing one in Bridgeport, which is not really a wealthy city, in Connecticut. We had our first fundraiser last November and raised money that the group matched. I think the start date is this November."
To tip off her involvement with Kaboom! and to raise money for the first playground, Taurasi returned to her roots in Connecticut and staged a big fundraiser at a restaurant in Waterbury. Also in attendance for the wine-tasting event and silent auction were former college teammates Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Maria Conlon, as well as Rebecca Lobo and Geno Auriemma.
"We are definitely doing another one this year, but we are not sure where yet," the Chino, CA native added. We might do Phoenix, I might do a little closer to home in L.A. We're still looking."
For Taurasi, a three-time National Champion with the University of Connecticut and major celebrity throughout the state, Taurasi knows just how important is it for athletes to use their celebrity to give back.
"I just thought if you had the resources, and you really want to do it and have the influence to do it, it's a good thing. Something to be unselfish about and to give kids something to smile about, which is probably something they don't get to do every day. I don't know if its important on a social level, I think it's important on an individual level," she said. "If it's a cause that is important to you, then that's all that counts."
Her involvement in the community is something that is obviously important to her, but she also had great mentors and role models in her community growing up.
"I always had really good teachers, that were always about more than what was in the books. Those little advice and tips can set you down the right path in your life. I am not sure I can have that kind of impact, but this is just the start."