There comes a point in all of our lives when we are faced with a life-changing situation or struggle. These moments can define our lives in many ways and are things we never forget as we grow old. They have the ability to make us stronger and provide a solidified purpose in our lives or they can devastate some to the point of depression and a life full of confusion. For WNBA star and Minnesota Lynx guard Candice Wiggins, that moment came at the tender age of 4 when her father and Major League Baseball star Alan Wiggins passed away due to complications caused by AIDS. He would be the first Major League player associated with the disease – which was caused by his drug use, and came at a time when the world was first learning of the severity of HIV and AIDS. For young Candice, the death of her father would stay with her as she grew into an adult and ignited the passion within her to raise awareness and hopefully someday eliminate the disease and the stigma that has come along with it.
“My dedication to charity work has been inside of me since I can remember. The work I do with HIV and AIDS spawns from my dad and my life is about anything I can do to help,” says Wiggins.
The Baltimore, Maryland native has worked closely with Until There’s A Cure to do just what the organization’s name suggests; find a cure for HIV and AIDS. The national organization raises awareness and funds through the sale of their various wristbands, each representing a different place affected by the disease.
“By purchasing a bracelet you can buy the different stories that go into different wristbands. The silver band focuses on America, or you can look into specific bands that represent different tribes in Africa that gear towards their assistance, each one means something different,” Wiggins explained.
Aside from the sale of these beneficiary bracelets, Candice works with UTAC to raise awareness and educate people about the stigma that has attached itself to the disease since the early ’90s. She works adamantly to clear the air about HIV and AIDS in an effort to make the general population informed about who can be at risk of such a serious and potentially deadly disease.
“Twenty years ago it was really like a drug user or a homosexual disease, that’s what AIDS was seen as when my dad died, he was a drug user,” she elucidated. “Now 20 years later it is the leading cause of death among African American heterosexual women ages 25- 36,” she continued.
“To me it’s because of the stigma that was associated with it, everyone who just made it exclusive to homosexuals and drug users. To me that’s really where my charity work with HIV comes into play, letting people know they too are susceptible to it.”
Alongside her battle against HIV, Candice is also adamant about issues surrounding world hunger and has been involved with feeding those who are starving for the last three years.
“In the past few years I’ve done work with Impact Lives, which is a great organization that helps feed the hungry and is something that anyone can go to locally, as well as Feed My Starving Children, which is another organization working within this matter,” mentioned Stanford’s women’s all-time leading scorer.
“There are so many organizations helping with world hunger and anyone can help, all you need to do is go to your local center and help prepare and package the food and send it to families that are hungry. There are billions of people that are hungry so to me that’s another big global issue,” she added.
Candice first got involved with Impact Lives through the Minnesota Lynx during a team event in which she met with employees and was educated about the severity of world hunger and the multiple ways in which we can help here at home.
“I remember one time before a game, the Target Center was set up as a food assembly line and we all got to participate in the packaging. It was really through the Lynx that I got involved with world hunger and it touched me in that way and I still like to do my part,” she explained.
As far as ending HIV is concerned, Wiggins feels that with continuous work from citizens to raise money and awareness and the work done by today’s scientists we will one day be able to end the threat of AIDS changing lives forever or ending them prematurely.
“I think we can find a cure very soon because there’s so much attention given to it and you have to have optimistic thinking. I have so much faith in the researchers and I think in our lifetime we’ll see a strong cure for HIV. There’s already many medications people can take if they have the disease,” Candice described.
“I suggest that people take the time and find out what their passionate about. You have to be a cheerful giver and by doing that you have to do something that you love that touches your heart. Maybe doing something like buying a bracelet doesn’t touch your heart, but maybe feeding the starving does. Find what you love and always give with joy.”
To learn more about Until There’s A Cure, visit http://until.org/
To learn more about Impact Lives, visit http://impactlives.org/