Every league in the world of professional sports has those iconic figures that the fans from all around the league look up to. They usually portray excellence both on and off the playing field and tend to put a smile on someone else’s face, whether it is through the sport or through community efforts. WNBA forward Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever has been involved in community and charitable efforts since she was just a young girl and now she’s trying to teach the kids of today how important it is to help others out.
“My experience goes back to when I was a little kid. My father (Harvey Catchings) played in the NBA, so one of the things that my mom and dad made sure that we did was any time he had to do any community outreach programs we did them as a family because they wanted to show us that there are people who are less fortunate than us that we had to help,” explained the 7-time WNBA All-Star.
Through the community outings that she took part in as a kid, she found a love for giving back and lending a helping hand which got her thinking of what she could do one day for somebody else.
“I always wanted to have my own basketball camp since I was in high school. To me that was the one thing that I wanted if I ever got good enough,” said the 2002 Rookie of the Year.
“When I got drafted by the Fever, as soon as I got up here, one of the things that I told our community relations director is that I wanted to get involved with as many community things as I could because I didn’t know anyone up here so I wanted to stay busy rather than sitting in front of the TV all day doing nothing.”
One of the first things Tamika was able to accomplish in her first year in the WNBA was starting the basketball camp that she’s dreamt about creating since she was a teenager in high school. She knew that through this basketball camp she would be able to not only help the children with their basketball skills and the fundamentals of the game itself, but she knew she would be able to be a positive role model in all of their lives to help guide them in the right direction in life.
“The first year here I started my camp. After the first year that we did it all the parents came up to us and told us how much fun their kids had and how great it was so they wanted to know if we did anything else,” recollected the reigning WNBA MVP.
“So the next year we added a fitness clinic to the basketball camp and after that it was the same thing, more parents wanted to know if we did anything else so the next couple of years we ended up adding more programs,” she continued. “Finally, in 2004 we sat down and decided that since we kept adding all of these programs we decided to put it all under one umbrella and that’s how we came up with the idea of starting the Foundation and calling it the Catch The Stars Foundation.”
Catch The Stars Foundation’s mission is to help youth achieve their dreams by providing them with goal-setting programs that promote literacy, fitness and mentoring. Catchings understands that the youth of today are the stars of tomorrow and if the youth aren’t getting the proper support that is necessary to make their dreams come true, then they may never end up reaching their full potential.
Tamika has always remained humble about what she’s been blessed with in life. She knows how much help she got from her friends, family and the community when she was working to make her a dream of becoming a professional basketball player a reality and now she is more than honoured to be doing the same for the youth of today. She knows how lucky she is to be where she is in life and as much as she can credit the determination and hard work for getting her to where she is, she will never forget the people who helped her get to where she is today and she shows how grateful she is of every single one of them by doing what they did for her for the kids of today.
“There were a lot of people who helped me get to where I am. My goal was to make the NBA at first and then the WNBA when it came around my freshman year of college,” mentioned the Stratford, New Jersey native.
“There were a lot of people who helped inspire me, motivate me and push me, so one of the things I wanted to focus on was helping these kids who have these dreams or goals but don’t have the means to get there or the right people in their lives to help motivate them into the right direction.”
Each year, the Catch The Stars Foundation attends a local community fair where they hand out 350 backpacks that are stuffed with new school supplies to the children. Although she does not currently have kids of her own, Catchings understands how important these supplies are, not only to the children who get to use them, but to the parents who get to save some money on these supplies and can use it towards something useful for the entire family like groceries.
The Foundation has continued to offer two $2,500 scholarships each year to two different students, but for the first time this year the Foundation offered the students a four-year renewable scholarship which would allow the students to receive $10,000.
“The greatest thing is that I could be having a terrible day, but as soon as I see the kids’ faces light up, no matter where it is, it makes my day that much better no matter what I’m doing,” she joyfully expressed. “Just knowing that you have made such an impact on so many kids’ lives, there’s nothing better than seeing the smiles on their faces.”
For Catchings, playing basketball for a living is a dream come true, but at the same time, so is running her basketball camp and helping all of these kids. Since she’s been helping out as a young girl, it has been instilled in her mind that there will always be somebody out there who needs help. She was taught to never turn a blind shoulder to someone and to lend them the helping hand that is needed instead.
“It’s an awesome experience to have such a huge impact on the community and I thank God everyday we have this opportunity to do that for the kids in our community,” stated the 4-time Defensive Player of the Year. “It really is a dream come true and such a great feeling of giving back.“
To learn more about the Catch The Stars Foundation, visit http://catchthestars.org/