Temeka Johnson of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm has been active in the community since she was a young girl. She learned the importance of helping others at a young age and it has been a way of life ever since. She started the H.O.P.E. (Heaven Open People’s Eyes) Foundation in 2009 to provide inspiration to youth, families, and communities to help them to lead a healthier lifestyle.
“Part of the reason why I started the H.O.P.E. Foundation was to be with the kids in different areas and tell them that there’s a lot more to life than what they see on an everyday basis,” explained Johnson.
“I let them know that I’m from the same area and that it is possible to be able to live a dream and I am a living example and proof that dreams can come true. I enjoy giving back and I want the people to know that I’m not untouchable, I’m human just like they are.”
The main objectives for her Foundation are to make an impact in every community that she adopts, to strongly express the importance of education and support for at-risk schools, and to gain awareness and support for all the programs that H.O.P.E. provides for the communities that it serves.
“To me, the biggest thing that I have accomplished is graduating college. I want kids to know that education can take you further than anything else,” stated the 6th overall pick of the 2006 WNBA Draft.
Johnson visits schools throughout the year to share her message with the children. She enjoys taking some time from her day to visit them because she gets to be a positive role model for all of them and helps guide them on the right path in life.
“Going to the schools is my favourite thing to do. I also enjoy being active with reading. I have my own children’s books, but I like to read all sorts of stories to the kids while I’m in the classrooms. I make myself feel like I’m one of them. I put myself in their shoes and just enjoy the day. I want them to know that I was once in the same position, in the same seat, you know, and I just really enjoy being around them.”
It has not always been easy for Johnson. Standing at five-foot-three; and being the shortest player in the WNBA, she has faced criticism her entire life because of her height, but she has always been able to overcome the adversity. She has always believed in herself and that’s something she likes to share with the kids and hopes to teach them how to be confident in themselves.
“Always believe in yourself. Never allow anyone to tell you what you can and cannot do. Give it a try and always surround yourself around positive people,” stated the New Orleans, Louisiana native.
Temeka will be going to Maui this summer to visit with some of the local children and bring them copies of her books. She will teach them the importance of reading and education and will hope to guide them in the right direction in life.
“I’m extremely excited, not just to read the books to the children, but to experience the culture out in Maui. The reason that I’m going there is to be able to give back and interact with the kids,” said the 2005 WNBA Rookie of the Year.
“I just want to enjoy the kids. I’m looking forward to the Q&A with them because I’m very interested in the questions they are going to have and to see their mindset and what they’re thinking.”
Johnson, a graduate from LSU, has been working on her Foundation for many years. She credits a lot of who she is today to her grandmother, who she would like to one day name a scholarship after.
“I would like to eventually be able to have a scholarship in my grandma’s name and help fund an education for some kids. I want to teach kids the importance of helping others and the importance of education,” said the 2009 WNBA Champion.
“The main thing I would like to do is share my experience with them that I have had through basketball and how that has allowed me to travel the world. I want to teach them that there’s more to life than what they see everyday.”