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 (ketia4kidz.org) 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.”