Wiggins on a Personal Mission to Raise Awareness

Candice Wiggins is dedicated to raising AIDS awareness after the disease impacted her at a young age
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images

Candice Wiggins was just over a month away from her fourth birthday when her father Alan fell victim to the AIDS epidemic. Her memories of the time are vague, but the impact of that moment has lasted with her.

�I call it flashes of memories,� said Wiggins during a phone call with WNBA.com from the campus of Stanford University. �I remember visiting him before he was in the hospital. When I saw him it was definitely a time when I knew he was bad, when I knew he was using drugs.�

As Wiggins grew older and developed a further understanding of the subject, she would routinely ask her mother questions about her father. Questions that often stemmed as a result of conducting a bit of personal research.

She would read about his professional baseball career in which he split six seasons between the Baltimore Orioles and San Diego Padres, the latter in which his 70 stolen bases in 1984 remains a franchise record. She would read about his downfall, his drug use and his untimely death at the age of 32, making him the first Major League Baseball player to die from the disease.

Through all the negative aspects of her father�s life that Candice was often privy too, her mother would continue to preach a positive attitude.

�She would tell me, �Candice, one day you�re going to bring all this to light,�� Wiggins said. ��You�re going to be able to take all this negativity and turn it into positivity one day.��

Admittedly, Wiggins wasn�t sure what her mother was talking about. All she knew was that if her mom said it, then it must be true. If her mom said something positive could come out of something as negative as losing her father, then she would believe it.

�I had to teach myself at a very young age how not to judge my father,� Wiggins said. �I wanted to be really angry at my father and judge him and not identify with him.�

Through shared memories from her family, Candice was able to set that mindset aside and embrace the greater side of her father, the one that left a lasting, positive impression on those around him.

He was, as Wiggins would say, only human. But as she matured and learned more about the disease and its impact, she made it her personal battle to raise awareness of AIDS.

�It wasn't something I actively chose to participate in,� said Wiggins. �There's a different kind of involvement if you choose to help a cause or help world hunger, or you're born into a cause and it's something that you are. That you just have the passion for.�

Wiggins remembers being an elementary student in the early 1990s. It was a time when the only people who talked about AIDS were those immediately affected by it. Otherwise it was perceived as something to be shamed about.

Needless to say, much has changed since then.

�The AIDS Walk is the first thing I can remember. In high school and middle school I felt really comfortable joining things that already existed,� said Wiggins. �That carried on through until after I finished college and picked the WNBA.�

When the Lynx selected her third overall in 2008, it was the perfect time for Wiggins to use her presence as an athlete by joining even more organizations, projecting herself as a spokeswoman for the disease and a pioneer for generating awareness, a role she embraces to this day.

While all of this is certainly a personal venture for Wiggins, it�s also one that is driven by compassion and a desire to connect with those who may be going through a similar situation or feeling what she felt throughout the stages of her life.

�It�s not about me,� said Wiggins, aware there is a connection that exists with others who have experienced losing a loved one to AIDS.

�You have to be strong, you have to be passionate but you have to also be understanding that there's a big world out there."