Ketia Swanier has always been somebody who appreciates everything that she has in front of her. Growing up an only child to two parents who were serving the United States in the Military, Swanier has never been unappreciative of what she has and has always understood the essence of hard work. She was almost always with her parents when they were traveling from one place to another, which helped shape her into the role model and positive human being she is today.
“I have great family support. My parents are my heroes and I think that they’ve raised me really well and have supported me as much as they could and I realize that not everybody has that, which is why I love doing this because you don’t know how you can affect somebody,” explained the 2009 WNBA Champion.
In 2008, she founded the Ketia4Kidz Foundation; a non-profit organization that provides tangible support to the children of deployed and severely injured active duty military service members. The Foundation provides activities and tutoring that nurture and sustain the children during the time a parent – or parents – are away serving the country.
“When I made it to the league, both of my parents were in the Military and serving the country for over 20 years so they kind of helped me come up with this idea. I’ve been in these children’s shoes so it kind of all fell together,” said the Columbus, Georgia native.
“I think it’s important to give back. I wish I had something like this as a child, just somebody to tell me anything really to help keep me positive,” she continued, “For me, the important thing is just being able to affect at least one person.”
“Last year I gave out five scholarships to kids from the Military, Army, Marines, Navy and Airborne. They all had to submit essays and the top five essays earned them a $1,000 scholarship. One young lady wrote me back telling me about her first semester and small things like that and it really put a smile on my face because it made me realize that I really helped her out and she really did appreciate what I did for her,” elucidated the 12th overall pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft.
Giving back to the community is something that has been a part of Ketia’s life for as long as she can remember. While in preschool, a group of professional baseball players came in to talk to all the kids about being a positive role model and giving back and she remembers it as the coolest thing ever, not because they were professional baseball players, but because they took time out of their schedules to go and do this for the community.
Even while she was playing basketball at the University of Connecticut, she was heavily involved in the community events that the team would take part in. Aside from finishing her college career as the only player in UConn history to rank among the top 10 career leaders in games played, assists and steals, the former Big East Sixth Man of the Year Award winner will also be remembered for her community efforts while she was in attendance.
“I remember doing things in college like visiting the hospitals and helping the homeless. I enjoyed helping out at the homeless shelter because we kind of got a realization of where they came from when they came into the shelter,” stated Swanier.
She took full advantage while at the University of Connecticut, both on and off the court. She understands how important education is in life and that’s why Ketia4Kidz intends to promote excellence in academics to all children on worldwide military installations.
The Ketia4Kidz Foundation offers a list of different programs; all of which Ketia likes to work hands-on with so she gets a personal experience with everyone that she gets the opportunity to help.
“Anything that I can do for the community, I love to do. I love putting a smile on someone’s face, even if it’s just one person you know you’ve made a difference,” said Swanier. “You never know what someone is going through until you’ve walked in their shoes, so when I can put a smile on someone’s face it makes me happy.”
“Knowing that you got to somebody and they actually listened to you makes it all worthwhile. These kids go home and think about what you’ve said to them and it helps give them a different outlook on life,” she affirmed.
Clearly never forgetting where she came from, Ketia Swanier continues to help children every single day that grew up in the same situation as her. She knows what it is like to be in that situation from day one and knows that you don’t have the power to change where you are at such a young age. One thing she does understand, however, is the fact that she can be a positive role model and help give the kids in her shoes an understanding of what is happening and how they can put their lives in the right direction to help bring positive change to society someday.
“I tell them about my story and it helps them stay positive because I’ve been in their shoes so they see that things will work out for the better as long as they stay positive and busy.“
Sure, she can’t change the situation that the kids are in, but she can help guide the kids on the right path in life and fill them with the confidence that has been hiding inside until now.
To learn more about the Ketia4Kidz Foundation, visit http://www.ketia4kidz.org/