Former UConn star Tina Charles no stranger to giving back
The former UConn star was named one of four finalists for the Sports Humanitarian of the Year Award on the same day she would be playing in the state where she first began to spread her wings and display her philanthropic spirit.
Charles has always been a giving soul but it wasn't until she graduated from UConn and began earning money playing professionally that she could put her money where her mouth is.
Charles joins Brent Burns, who just led the San Jose Sharks to their first Stanley Cup Final, NFL star Carlos Dunlap and NBA All-Star Chris Paul as finalists for the prestigious award.
"I think it is more recognition towards Hopey's Heart Foundation, raising awareness for sudden cardiac arrest," Charles said before scoring 32 points to lead the New York Liberty past the Connecticut Sun. "For it to come out today while I am playing in Connecticut, this is where it started. It is huge, we are growing."
I was talking to an official from the New York Liberty yesterday as I waited to talk to some of the New York players during the media access period and heard stories of her dedication, the trips to meetings with the Hopey's Heart Foundation. Little of this ever gets reported and that is fine with Charles. She's often kept the media at arm's length and doesn't get involved in charitable ventures so she can have glowing stories written about her or even receive awards for her work away from the court. When I spoke to her yesterday, her eyes lit up when I mentioned that potential impact the $25,000 donation her charity will receive with her being a finalist for the Sports Humanitarian of the Award. It was almost as if I could see her thinking about how many more schools she can help get defibrillators into and potentially how many more lives of children could be saved by having that piece of equipment in schools.
Charles' philanthropic spirit did not first reveal itself through the Hopey's Heart Foundation. During the season when she would be named the MVP of the WNBA with the Connecticut Sun I put together a piece on Charles that went beyond the points she was scoring and rebounds she was pulling down. She funded the building of a school in Mali through partnership with OmniPeace and buildOn. It was a side of her personality that not everybody saw. I covered her in the final three seasons of her career at UConn and in the early stages of her professional career and didn't fully comprehend just how giving of a person that she is. So one day inside Mohegan Sun Arena I spent probably 30 minutes with her discussing the importance of giving back to people. It was one of the most enjoyable stories I have written in my coverage of the Connecticut Sun and thought of that day and story I wrote when I spoke to Tina for a few minutes last night.
The winner of the Sports Humanitarian of the Year will be announced on July 12 with ESPN giving a $100,000 grant to the charity of the winner.