Saturday, December 6, 2008

Columbus High’s Swanier returns to retire jersey

Before Ketia Swanier played her first game for Connecticut, her AAU coach Mike Green told reporters she was a “wizard with the ball.”

Before she was chosen in the first round of the 2008 WNBA draft, former Orlando coach Carolyn Peck told ESPN that Swanier would be “added value to any team.”

But long before the media took any notice — when Swanier was in middle school — former Columbus High coach Ashley Powell said she saw those same things in the young point guard.

“I saw her play in eighth grade, and I knew I wanted to coach her at Columbus,” Powell said.

“Just watching her, I knew she was a smart, talented player and she would do good things on the court.”

Swanier started four years at Columbus under Powell, leading the Blue Devils to the 2004 state title game before going on to play for UConn and the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun.

In November, Swanier signed with Rybnik, a team based out of Rybnik, Poland, in the country’s PLKK league.

Swanier is taking a break from pro basketball this week, traveling more than 5,000 miles back to Columbus, where the Blue Devils will retire her No. 21 jersey today before the start of a game against Hardaway.

“It’s always a big accomplishment to have your jersey retired,” Swanier said. “I’ve been trying to find time to do it the last couple years, and I’m very glad it’s finally worked out to where I can come back and do it.”

Play with the boys

Swanier was more than just the best player on the girls team during her tenure at Columbus High. She may have been the best player period, Columbus boys coach Larry Ferrell said.

“I really wish she could have played with the boys team,” Ferrell said. “She was good enough, and I could have used her.”

Swanier made a habit out of warming up against the boys, according to Powell, and typically had something to teach everyone on the court.

Once the game started, her ball-handling skills and shooting were only outshined by her ability to make it from baseline to baseline in seconds.

“Ketia would grab a rebound and then be down the court before anyone else on either team,” Powell said. “She was just so fast it was hard to stop her.”

Swanier led the Blue Devils through the state playoffs and into the 2004 finals against St. Pius. There, Swanier fouled out in the final minutes, and the Blue Devils watched their thin lead evaporate in a heartbreaking loss. The previous November, Swanier had signed with UConn, so she knew her playing days were not over yet.

Powell said there was little doubt among anyone who saw Swanier play that the point guard would go on to the next level.

“Coaches would sit around and say, ‘Where do you think she’s going to go to college,’ ” Powell said. “We never doubted she would play somewhere.”

Fans and coaches hardly were the only ones to notice her high school performances. Swanier was named the Georgia AAAA Player of the Year in 2003 and 2004, and made the all-state first-team roster 2002-04.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Connecticut Sun: Swanier reaches out to fellow ‘Army brats’

Posted Dec 04, 2008 @ 11:38 PM

Even now, when Ketia Swanier thinks back to her childhood, rarely both parents are involved. Grocery store trips in Europe with her mother. Getting ready for school as her father does her hair. Waiting for one to return home — then hoping the other doesn’t have to leave.

Bosnia, Saudi Arabia and Iraq weren’t places in the news for Swanier. She hoped to see them on the caller ID.

“I remember breaking down by myself because I didn’t really ever speak to my father” while he was deployed in Iraq, Swanier said. Her mother, Rosie, and father, Cornell, were both First Sergeants in the Army, now retired. “Two years. … I didn’t know if I would ever see my dad again. He was there when the war started.”

“It’s tough,” Cornell said. “And she understands that.”

The former UConn star is helping more people to.

Home now for three days to attend a ceremony at her alma mater, Columbus (Ga.) High School — which is retiring her No. 21 high school jersey — Swanier, who finished her first season with the Connecticut Sun in September, continues to promote her new foundation, Ketia 4 Kidz.

Launched in late August, the organization’s goal is “to motivate children of active duty military personnel to achieve their dreams and goals by promoting excellence in academics and sports related programs,” according to its mission statement.

Through fund-raisers and appearances, Swanier’s hope is to assist children in military installments with opportunities she didn’t have growing up on different bases and in different countries. More so, she wants to give them hope.

“I think the greatest thing about it is I’m a living example of it,” Swanier said by phone Thursday night. “I’m pretty sure being an Army brat now, or even having one parent, is really hard, harder than when I was because of the war going on. I just want to let these kids know that you can still do and achieve anything you want to do.

“People always say, ‘Support the troops, support the troops,’” she added. “Well, a lot of people forget about the children.”

Swanier’s organization is growing rapidly. She visited wounded soldiers and their families at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., in early November, and has joined Keela Carr and The Journey of a Thousand Thanks campaign, a walk across the country in support of the troops.

Spanning more than two-and-a-half months this May, Carr will trek from California to D.C., stopping at military installments to help promote both the National Veterans Homeless Support Organization and Ketia 4 Kidz.

“There will be an RV behind her and it will have my logo on the RV,” Swanier said. “If I definitely get a chance to meet up with her somewhere, I’m definitely going to do it.”

Carr first contacted Swanier through e-mail, a sign of her foundation’s growth. Since the Web site ( launched last month, it’s received roughly 50,000 hits, her father said.

“In four days, she’s had almost 3,000,” added Cornell, one of approximately 10 family members and friends who help Ketia with the organization. In the spring, family members in Mississippi will hold a fund-raiser. “There are people out there who know about it.”

For the moment, Swanier hasn’t scheduled as many appearances as she would have liked. She’ll return to Poland after the weekend to continue starting for Rybnik, which also features WNBA players LaTangela Atkinson and Kasha Terry. She’ll likely be there until March or April in the same country her mother was stationed in while Ketia was 10 years old.

“You still have a limited number of channels,” Ketia joked. “I don’t remember a whole, whole lot but it was easier because I was with my parents. Now I’m on my own.”

But she’s working to ensure no Army brats are.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Patriotic Partnership - Saying Thanks across Our Country - A Thousand Times Over - Believe in your dreams!

On May 26, 2008 after months of planning what can only be described as a very grass roots event. I set out on foot on a 2,700 mile cross-country adventure departing from Ft. Irwin California and culminating near our nation’s Capitol on the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

As I traveled, it was my privilege to meet, shake the hands of, and personally thank more than 1,000 veterans and individual members of our Armed Forces. In addition, I toured multiple military facilities across the country and had the honor of participating in a USO event at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri.

At last, after 75 days of the greatest and most grueling adventure ever,

The Journey of a Thousand Thanks came to a quiet and triumphant end.

Now, with the first crossing ending in success, and bringing in more than 2000 media hits, funds for the Wounded Warrior Project and recognition and an award from the White Houses’ USA Freedom Corp office, the plans for 2009’s journey are well under way!

For 2009’s journey, we have partnered with the Ketia4Kidz Foundation and The National Veterans Homeless Support Organization as we cross the country to thank our troops, and proudly shine a light of support on the children of active duty military families as well as bring much needed assistance to many of our veterans who are in need.

With so many of our veterans, service personnel and their families in need of financial assistance and the staunch support and encouragement of their fellow countrymen, A Thousand Thanks, Ketia4Kidz and The National Veterans Homeless Support invites you to be apart of an event unlike any other as we salute the very best of our nation, one step at a time.

Our Route

The route will span some 2,000 plus miles with stops at military installations and some of the nation’s most beautiful cities.

We are hoping to stay visible and accessible, so that supporters across the country can not only follow us, but come out and join us as well.

Of course, we ask that you keep your eyes tuned to our official web site for any updates or changes to the route.

Our Team

A Thousand Thanks

A Thousand Thanks is the result of grand moment of inspiration and has become the catalyst project for bringing organizations and foundations together for a united cause.

A Thousand Thanks exists solely to inspire a spirit of service and gratitude from the American people to the American Service men and women.

Ketia4kidz Foundation

The Ketia4Kidz Foundation is the life long dream of Former UConn point guard and now professional basketball player for the WNBA Connecticut Sun, Ketia Swanier, a self-described “military brat” with national and international moves and both parents serving their country, Ms. Swanier knows very well the challenges that children of active duty families face. “I understand what these children are experiencing with us fighting two wars. Both of my parents deployed several times.”

It is this special knowledge that Ms. Swanier hopes to use as she and her foundation reach out to the children of our military. Ketia4Kidz will motivate these children to realize their dreams and achieve them through promoting excellence in academics and sports related programs.

National Veterans Homeless Support

The National Veterans Homeless Support is a labor of love for Vietnam veteran George Taylor. Mr. Taylor honorably served his country in the U.S Army’s 173rd Airborne Division. Over the last 20 years, Mr. Taylor has continued to serve his country as the executive director of the Mr. Taylor and his organization have dedicated themselves to business of helping homeless veterans.

The NVHS has a network of social programs that include Post Traumatic Awareness and counseling, assistance with enrollment VA medical and mental services, as well as access to rehabilitation programs such as narcotics & alcoholics anonymous. It is Mr. Taylor’s mission to remind these men and women that they once wore the uniform of this great country.

The Mission

On May 26, 2009, I will again set out on foot acroos the country in a show of gratitude and support for those men and women who have worn, and those who still wear the uniform of this country.

From California to Our Nation’s Capitol, with stops at military installtions and cities along the way, I will walk to bring awarness to the challenges that our veterans and military children face .

Funds raised from this event will be donated to The National Veterans Homeless Support Organization and The Ketia4Kidz Foundation.

Get Involved

The Journey of a Thousand Thanks event is inviting corporations and foundations to become apart of this unique project through tax-deductable donations or sponsorship.

Sponsors will be recognized for their participation:

* With acknowledgement and a link on the official web site.
* National Exposure of company logo on event vehicle and apparel.
* In all press releases and correspondence with military installations

Individuals & Volunteers

We are very excited to welcome private citizens and those who would like to be involved as volunteers at our “event” cities to contact us with questions about how, when and where you can be involved.

Website :


Keela Carr: 404/663-6959



Phone Number: 706-577-1731

Monday, December 1, 2008

“Fighting For Our Military Children”

The day I met Ketia in person over ten years ago remains lucid: pigtails, walking on her tip-toes with an unusual gait, and a crooked right pinky as she appeared in the gym doors. It was a surreal moment for an eleven-year-old: my parents had been writing to our local congressional representatives for months on behalf of Ketia’s father, Cornell, who was hoping to receive his next assignment in Georgia after an extended tenure in Warzburg, Germany with the United States Army. He wanted his daughter to play basketball for my father and the organization with which I had become involved at a young age: the Georgia Magic. To quote my father and my second father, our coach Mike Green, “We knew she was something special that day.” The rest is history.

From the age of 11 to 18, I spent every summer in ill-ventilated middle school gymnasiums with Ketia and our teammates, sometimes three practices per weekend to optimize our time together and save our parents the headache of driving several hours during the week. She played a large role in leading our team to 7 consecutive Georgia State AAU Championships, 7 consecutive National Sweet 16 appearances, 1 national title, and 1 national runner-up.

We shared in these successes, but more importantly we shared in certain heartbreaks together. Ketia’s father was deployed to Saudi Arabia and Iraq for multiple tours in the early stages of the United States’ Middle East conflicts. He missed game after game, national tournament after national tournament, and win after win during the crucial years of her career. Her mother, also a retired Army First Sergeant, spent ten months in Bosnia. Practically every year from sixth grade when I met her through high school, Ketia lived in a single-parent home or with relatives. Ketia continued to dream big despite the notable absence of her father and the stress his tours in Iraq inevitably created.

After a stellar career in high school where her jersey will be retired on December 5, four years as a student-athlete at the legendary University of Connecticut, and being selected as a first-round draft pick in the WNBA, Ketia has taken the initiative to support children in the same predicament that she long endured. In August, she officially formed the Ketia4Kidz Foundation to support and uplift the children of active duty military personnel through sports, education, and life skills programs. Within it first two months of operation, Ketia made appearances at Fort Benning, where her parents were stationed before their retirement, and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. to greet wounded veterans and their families. She has recently partnered with A Thousand Thanks to raise awareness on a national level of the challenges facing military children. Despite her many commitments as a professional athlete, she has elected to spend so much of her spare time to fulfill a dream of her own through fulfilling the needs of others. I was never graced with Ketia’s skill, speed, or natural instinct on the basketball court. I am not a professional athlete; I am a banker! I was honored to share the floor with Ketia and she graciously expresses the same gratitude to me. As all of us well know, our veterans, active duty personnel and their children have made and continue to make tremendous sacrifices on behalf of our country. I am proud to support Ketia as she works to lessen this burden and uplift our military children.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Swanier Has Military Kids In Mind

By JOHN ALTAVILLA | The Hartford Courant

November 5, 2008

Connecticut Sun guard Ketia Swanier, who helped lead the UConn women
to the Final Four last season, is the only member of her WNBA team not playing basketball overseas. But she has a good reason for putting her career on hold.
Swanier has been using the time to fulfill a dream. And the pursuit of that will take her to Washington this weekend with her father, Cornell, a retired Army First Sergeant. The Swaniers will visit wounded soldiers and their families at Walter Reed Hospital, one of the first steps Ketia is taking to help establish her Ketia4kidz Foundation.
The daughter of a military family — both parents are retired from the Army — Swanier’s goal is simply expressed in the charity’s mission statement:

“To motivate children of active duty military personnel to achieve their dreams and goals by promoting excellence in academics and sports related programs. These programs will include reading, study skills, life skills, goal setting, sportsmanship as well as living healthier lifestyles.”

Swanier’s website,, is scheduled to be up soon. In the meantime, one of the Sun’s two first-round picks last season is beginning to make appearances to promote her charity. She will hold her first fundraiser Dec. 5 when her high school jersey will be retired by Columbus High (Ga.).

“My father was deployed to Iraq and Saudi Arabia,” Swanier said. “My mother [Rosie, also a retired Army First Sergeant] was sent to Bosnia for 10 months. Practically every year I spent from sixth grade through high school, I was in a single-family home because one of my parents was always somewhere in the world.

“I want to give the children of these families an example, encourage them to dream big and believe they can still accomplish things.”

The first beneficiary of the foundation will be Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga., where Swanier’s parents were stationed before their retirement. Funds will be used to provide school supplies and tutoring, etiquette and life skills programs.

Swanier will resume her basketball career soon, although she doesn’t know where she will play.

“I’m just working on my shot right now,” Swanier said. “I go to the gym a few days a week. And I’m doing workouts to take care of my body. [Sun coach Mike] Thibault told us playing overseas was our own decision. He just told me what I should work on.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Building A Foundation (Connecticut Sun News)

Building A Foundation

Connecticut Sun guard Ketia Swanier doesn’t really need to explain why she is establishing the Ketia4kidz Foundation.

Her motivation is summed up in the mission statement:

To motivate children of active duty military personnel to achieve their dreams and goals by promoting excellence in academics and sports related programs. These programs will include reading, study skills, life skills, goal setting, sportsmanship as well as living healthier lifestyles.

As the daughter of two retired Army First Sergeants, Swanier has a special appreciation for the challenges faced by children with parents on active duty in the military.

“If you were to tell my story, throughout middle school and high school, five of those seven years, I was in a single parent home,” Swanier says. “One of my parents was deployed somewhere…I was still growing. I was just going to school and doing after-school activities. It probably was a stressful time on me, just because while I was over there, my mother was deployed to Bosnia for 10 months. And as soon as my mother got back, my father was deployed to Saudi Arabia. So it probably was stressful on me, but as a kid, I didn’t realize.”

She does now.

“Just all the things military kids go through…their parents leaving… all this stuff goes on and they’re effected by this, whether they know it or not,” Swanier explains. “I just want to give back, and let them know: dream big and you’ll be able to do what you want to do. Don’t give up. That’s the main thing.”

Swanier, who just completed her rookie season in the WNBA with the Sun after a stellar career at UConn, began to develop a serious passion for basketball while her parents – Cornell and Rosie – were stationed in Germany when she was in the fifth grade.

Her father conducted some on-line research and found an AAU team in Georgia, and Ketia was allowed to travel back to the United States to participate in tryouts. She made the squad, then spent the next few summers living with an uncle while competing for the Georgia Magic.

Looking back, Swanier realizes she was fortunate.

“A lot of kids, especially overseas, if you’re at that age, nobody really recruits from the military,” she says. “Because my parents were pretty pro-active getting me a program, I was able to do that.”

Swanier’s parents have also played an important role in starting her foundation, working though all of the paperwork and other requirements that accompany the establishment of a non-profit organization. Fundraisers have been planned, and a website ( should be launched very soon.

The first beneficiary of the Ketia4kidz Foundation will be nearby Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, where Swanier’s parents were stationed before their retirement. Money generated in upcoming fundraisers will be used to provide school supplies, or to help fund tutoring, etiquette and life skills programs.

Eventually, the idea is to expand to other military installations while also broadening the range of support for children with active duty parents.

“One of the things I really want to do is have camps overseas,” says Swanier, who is well aware of the impact she can have on children. “A lot of young ladies are watching TV, and one day they want to play on that Final Four floor and go to the next level. Not a lot of people are able to accomplish that, and I just feel like it’s a blessing. Hard work does pay off.”