She may be a bona fide basketball star bound for the Hall of Fame, but Candace Parker started somewhere — Naperville Central High School in Chicago, to be exact — and she hasn’t forgotten her roots.
The three-time Ms. Basketball of Illinois while at Naperville threw her support behind The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation’s Sports Matter program in supporting Chicago-area girls seeking to follow in the footsteps of their hometown hero.
Although Parker had to hang out at the Sports Matter Giving Truck via virtual livestream due to the pandemic, the young women who stopped by seemed overjoyed by their interactions with the reigning WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, 2016 WNBA champion and two-time league MVP. Parker even teased one young woman on the shade of her hoodie — Texas Longhorns orange rather than the orange of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers, Parker’s alma mater.
The Sports Matter program has donated more than $145 million toward helping young people stay engaged with sports, particularly as so many young athletes find themselves sidelined because of the pandemic. Chicago was the fourth stop on the Giving Truck’s eight-city tour in pursuit of gifting 10,000 kids in underserved communities with the gear and equipment they need to stay active.
Highlights: Parker brings inspiration, smiles to basketball-loving teens in Chicago
At its Chicago stop, the Sports Matter Giving Truck brought goods to kids involved with ABC Pilsen, an organization whose mission it is to:
... strengthen a sense of community in Pilsen, reduce violence and improve the personal trajectory of Pilsen’s underserved children and their families through academics, basketball and community building The vision of the organization is to create a stable future for Pilsen as a friendly, connected, safe and resilient neighborhood through empowering parents and the community’s youth.
Pilsen is a largely Latinx community in the inner city of Chicago.
Alex Anaya, founder and executive director of ABC Pilsen, spoke of the importance of Parker’s and DICK’s gifts to the young people in his program:
As you saw, some of the older kids realize what a role model [Candace Parker] is and they asked lot of very good questions. They were super excited to get these gifts and I know some of the participants in our program don’t honestly have the means to buy themselves a halfway decent basketball, so I know that’s going to be very well appreciated.
Photos: The Sports Matter Giving Truck delivers joy and basketballs
Next up for the Sports Matters Giving Truck, trips to St. Louis, Dallas, New Orleans and Atlanta. Before its stop in Chicago, the Giving Truck bestowed sports-related blessings on young athletes in New York City, Pittsburgh and Detroit.