Ever since WNBA All-Star Charde Houston joined the social networking website Twitter this past April, her plans to create a non-profit organization serving underserved youth have been a frequent theme of her tweets. For several months most of her posts about the project addressed the steps one needs to take in order to create a charitable organization-filing a 501(c)(3), applying for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), getting advice from legal and financial professionals and consulting with similar organizations. However, her plans to bring her non-profit into fruition escalated in November when she read about the plight of a young female basketball player in San Antonio.
In the early hours of Saturday, November 15, the mother of an 11 year-old player for the South Texas Hoyas, an AAU girl’s basketball team in San Antonio, died in a fatal domestic violence incident. In a strange twist, just miles away, Houston’s alma mater, the number one ranked powerhouse Connecticut Huskies, prepared for a nationally televised game to be broadcast on ESPN2 the next day.
Houston, playing in the WNBA offseason in the south of France for EuroLeague team Tarbes, did not let the thousands of miles and an ocean deter her immediate decision to help out the young player and her eight year-old brother. Not only did they lose their mother, the children were left homeless after the tragedy. The Minnesota Lynx forward, no stranger to hardship herself (her family was homeless for a brief period when she was a youngster growing up in San Diego), felt an immediate connection and quickly contacted the Hoya’s coach Theresa Nunn. The two women quickly fused a bond and began a transatlantic mission.
Using Twitter to solicit monetary and material donations, Houston began an online fundraising drive supplemented by her followers retweeting her efforts and a web page created by Linda Estep.
Fans and celebrities (Alyssa Milano was one of the first) from all corners began retweeting and donating, players and coaches chipped in and the WNBA posted her blog post on the subject at WNBA.com. She wrote:
I have come up with an idea to help raise money for this family. Based on the number of followers I currently have on twitter, if everyone donated just $2, we would be able to raise $3,288.00 for this family in need. Along with myself, many people who follow me have decided to take a big step in donating money to this family. Of course, if you are able to give more, that is always appreciated.
Houston is slightly short of her goal at the moment but has received items for an auction to continue raising funds. Some of the items include autographed shoes and other items from not just her Lynx teammates but also from Candace Parker, Temeka Johnson, Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter, Ketia Swanier and many others.
In addition to help from several other AAU teams, San Antonio Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes, Auburn coach Nell Fortner and other basketball professionals also pitched in to help Houston and Nunn.
Houston took some time out of her European sojourn to do an email interview with Hoopfeed.com on her passion for giving back, life overseas in the offseason and her thoughts on the next season of the WNBA. (The names of the children have been abbreviated to protect their privacy.)
Q: You’ve been in the planning stages of your non-profit organization this year and now you’ve started the effort for the family in San Antonio, why did their story hit home for you?
A: Honestly, I can’t really pinpoint exactly what it was. All I can say that there was a feeling that passed over me while reading their story. Feelings of compassion and sympathy ran thorough my heart. I remember when I went through my hardships around that age, and it was very difficult. I just wanted to reach out to that family, and let them know that everything was going to be okay. I would be willing to help them in any way possible.
Q: When you found out about them, did you have any hesitation in setting up a fund drive to help them out?
A: No, not at all. I had everything set up within a day and a half. My agent, Eric Weisel does a great job of allowing me to live out my dreams. If I propose something to him, he tries to make it happen for me right away. His staff does a great job of providing everything that I need in a timely manner. I didn’t want it to take long before I stared because they need immediate help. I want to provide that as soon as I could.
Q: How have your interactions been with the kids and how do you plan to stay involved with them as they grow up?
A: I have interacted with A-