Today, the Women’s Sports Foundation and espnW, in collaboration with the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, announced Harlem-based Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation (WHGF) as a 2018 recipient of the Sports 4 Life initiative.
WHGF is a national effort to increase the participation and retention of African-American and Hispanic girls in youth sports programs.
Sports 4 Life, cofounded by the Women’s Sports Foundation and espnW in 2014, and supported by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation in regions including Southeast Michigan and Western New York, supports programs that help girls in four foundational areas – leadership, self-esteem, confidence and perseverance – with the expectation that growth in these areas will also support girls’ physical and emotional health and academic success. Recognizing the value of Sports 4 Life, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation joined the initiative this year to provide regional support to eight organizations in Southeast Michigan and Western New York.
“It’s an honor to empower young athletes through the sport of gymnastics – especially to provide for those in urban and underserved communities. Motivated by the lack of diversity and opportunities in gymnastics, I started the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation 22 years ago,” said WHGF Founder, Wendy Hilliard. “Since 2016, I have been proud to bring high quality gymnastics to my hometown of Detroit where we continue to grow with the help of donors, sponsors and partners like Women’s Sports Foundation and espnW.”
“Our vision is that one day, all girls will have the opportunity to reach their full potential through the transformative experience of sports,” said Deborah Antoine, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation. “Even more than we believe in the power of sports, the Women’s Sports Foundation believes that all girls – regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, ability, zip code or family income – deserve equitable access to the lifelong benefits of sports. We’re proud to team up with espnW and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation to make that vision a reality.”
“In a few short years of commitment and focused attention, we have seen the tangible positive results that Sports 4 Life has brought to the lives of girls of color across the country,” said Laura Gentile, ESPN senior vice president, espnW and ESPN Business Operations & Content Strategy. “This program demonstrates the universal value and appeal of sports, and it is an integral piece of the espnW mission. We look forward to continuing to empower girls to realize their full potential through sports.”
Since the initiative’s inception in 2014, Sports 4 Life has awarded 200 grants totaling more than $1.1 million and reaching more than 50,000 girls nationally. With WSF’s support, Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation and other community and regional partners have been particularly successful in increasing opportunities for girls of color: more than 85% percent of girl participants identify as African-American or Hispanic.
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Meet all the 2018 Sport 4 Life grant recipients and learn more about them here.
Photo credit (l to r): Wendy Hillard, Billie Jean King and Gale Brewer.