Erica Wheeler has made a name for herself on the court. In her first year with the Fever, she established herself as one of the quickest guards in the league and her passion for the game was undeniable. But if you talk to Wheeler for more than five minutes you will realize that her greatest passion is giving back to others.
She created the Wheeler Kid Foundation to not only provide assistance for single parents, but to provide hope and opportunity for kids that are less fortunate. Wheeler spoke with us about the Wheeler Kid Foundation and what she hopes to accomplish:
What is the Wheeler Kid Foundation and what do you hope to achieve?
My mission for this foundation is to provide many opportunities for children that are not fortunate enough to be involved in the extracurricular activities of their choice. I want to give children a bit of hope that there are people in their community that care about their dreams and are willing to help them become successful.
Long term, we want to be one of the best foundations around by really creating opportunities for kids and helping people all over the world.
What inspired you to start the Wheeler Kid Foundation?
My life inspired me, from growing up the way I did, not really having much. One moment my family would have everything and the next we didn’t have anything. So just being able to overcome the things I’ve come across at a young age until now, I feel that I am an example and living proof that no matter what your situation or circumstance is, you always have a choice to chase after whatever you desire to be.
I had an experience where two boys asked me to sponsor them, by buying them a pair of basketball shoes for their upcoming season at Tacolcy. Of course I told them yes and then after I said yes, all the other kids wanted shoes, which I couldn’t do at the time. But I ended up taking the two kids to a nearby Sport Authority to buy the shoes. At the end of everything, the looks on their faces were priceless. For me, it’s a feeling I would like to feel for the rest of my life, knowing that basketball is allowing me to bless others. That is a feeling I can’t describe.
Knowing that basketball is allowing me to bless others… That is a feeling I can’t describe.
Your mom passed away from ovarian cancer almost five years ago. You have taken a devastating situation and found a way to help and inspire others. What would you say to someone else that may be struggling with his or her own journey?
I would say to him or her, find something that keeps you busy to limit your mind from thinking about the what-ifs. When my mother passed away, I was a senior in college, so for me, oddly, I put my focus on graduating college. Even though basketball is my outlet, above all of the things that I was doing, my mother ultimately wanted me to graduate college. I knew in my heart, when I walked across that stage, she would be proud. One more thing I would say that I think people struggle with during the grieving process is being ok with having bad days, when things just hit you hard. Because often times we think we have to be strong and tough but some moments you have to let it out to feel better.
I knew in my heart, when I walked across that stage, she would be proud.
If you could tell everyone one thing about your mom, what would that be?
There are not enough words because my mother was simply amazing! But I would have to say that she is the most energetic, loving and caring person I know. I think anyone that met my mother would probably agree. Her energy was contiguous. Everything she did was with love and passion. She loved everybody.
How did you get the foundation off the ground?
Well, right before I returned home this December for Christmas break, literally on the plane, I called my manager Jeff Terry, and I told him I want to do something for single parents. As you may know, my mother was a single parent of three. So we planned it out and made it happen. I just wanted to really do everything the right way and not just hand out money. I already had my team ready. I had my president, accountant, and treasurer on board to get things started; it was just about getting the paperwork done. Once that got done, we wanted to do something before the new year and before I left to go overseas.
How does it feel when you see some of the reactions you’ve received?
It’s a feeling I really can’t put into words. But I do know it’s a feeling I would love to feel for the rest of my life. Just imagine helping someone who’s been struggling for a while and they have been praying for God to send a blessing their way, and that blessing is YOU! If you can free up some of the stress that someone has been having or help a kid who dreams to leave their city to go to a talent show to showcase their talent. You are giving them a choice that they didn’t think they had. It’s amazing.
Just imagine helping someone who’s been struggling for a while and they have been praying for God to send a blessing their way, and that blessing is YOU!
Your logo features kids of all different races and abilities. It features artists, athletes, and musicians. Was it important for you to show kids that they are important no matter who they are?
Yes, most definitely. It was important for me to show kids or just people in general that they are important no matter what shape, size, or what abilities you have or don’t. No kid is counted out. That is my vision, so I wanted my logo to display that even without reading about us. We are not just about one kid or one race. We are equal and I want my foundation to be for anybody that is in need.
You have mentioned that you want to help kids all over the country, not just your hometown. How do you plan to reach kids in different communities?
Well, my team and I are planning to do some events in Indiana this upcoming season, but as for other communities in different states, we will be reaching out soon.
Are you currently looking for volunteers with The Wheeler Kid Foundation, if so, how should they contact the organization?
Yes, I am! Contact the Wheeler Kid Foundation at TheWheelerKidFoundation16@gmail.com.
Related News: Wheelin’ Around: Erica Wheeler’s Journey to the WNBA »
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