In early February, the Indiana Fever and Anthem, Inc. announced a multi-year partnership that aims to address social injustice, promote health and well-being in under-resourced communities, and empower athletes to become advocates for change.
As part of the partnership, the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI developed a professional certificate program called “Athlete to Advocate.”
A five-week virtual program for players who are overseas, it aims to help players become more effective advocates and better understand how to use their clout as athletes to amplify their philanthropic work.
Three hours of instruction each week, seven players and staff, including Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Tamika Catchings, are currently participating in the program.
For Fever players Jantel Lavender and Kathleen Doyle, the course thus far has been an eye-opening experience, starting with their understanding of philanthropy and how to become a philanthropist.
“I think the biggest takeaway is that anybody can be a philanthropist and you don’t have to be wealthy to be one,” Doyle stated. “I feel like when most people hear philanthropist, they just think about someone donating money, which is a part of it.”
“[However], you can also give your time, effort and energy toward something you care about, and it doesn’t have to be money in order to make an impact. That’s big for me, I just graduated college so that’s a very empowering thing to hear that I can make a difference just by using my passion, energy and time and giving that to people.”
A similar sentiment was shared by Lavender who also added that she has learned a lot about the groundwork that goes into becoming a philanthropist and that it’s possible to be positive or negative one.
“There are moments where people can think they’re doing good,” Lavender replied. “But they are actually causing more harm. I never thought that it could work that way, I just thought it was always something that developed good things for people. I never knew that it could be harmful in some ways. So, it was really eye-opening and important to learn that you need to make sure that you aren’t going to harm someone else while trying to do good for another group.”
Another plus of this program has been the chance for the players to connect with each other on a personal level.
This offseason, the Fever signed a number of new players including Lavender, while also re-signing franchise pillars like Kelsey Mitchell.
Although they didn’t know it at the time, participating in this program has opened the door for bonds to be built virtually before the team reports to Indiana for the upcoming 2021 season.
“It’s been amazing, and I think our interaction on the call is making us close knit before we even get there,” Lavender said with a smile. “We’re learning so much about each other’s personal lives. We’re learning about Lauren [Cox]’s type 1 diabetes in depth, we’re learning about Tiffany [Mitchell]’s single parent foundation. We’re learning so much about Chanelle Molina, who I haven’t even met her in person yet, but I know that she is passionate about mental health. So, I just have a closeness with them because we’re all sharing so many personal things.”
Doyle added that this program not only allows them to learn about each other’s passions outside of basketball, but also amplify each other’s causes as well.
“It definitely creates a cohesive group, and as we build out our philanthropic efforts, I feel like we can use each other’s platforms to unify and make even stronger impacts together,” Doyle stated.