Ex-Storm role player now a star in community
Starting one of the first female athlete's charities in Seattle wasn't easy. Strange as it sounds, Adia Barnes needed to tear up her knee...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Charity checkWant to check out an athlete's charity? Here are a few key questions.
Find out how efficient it is by examining where a charity spends its money.
Go beyond the numbers on the return. Ask for budgets and forecasts.
Do a little more homework. Volunteer for a charity or ask for an audit.
Starting one of the first female athlete's charities in Seattle wasn't easy. Strange as it sounds, Adia Barnes needed to tear up her knee and get ripped off.
She also needed to spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars and to sell sweaty shoes collected from teammates, to create Adia's Dreams in Actions.
Barnes, former Storm forward and current team broadcaster, takes pride in the work, the toys she unloaded, the jerseys she paid to frame, the friends who showed up and donated in her name.
"I wasn't a star player," Barnes says. "But I was definitely a star in the community. It felt better, the way I did it. I put the work in. I got dirty."
Sometimes dirty works. Like when Barnes slapped a box next to a wall in the team's locker room and asked teammates to throw old shoes inside. Or when she took a sports bra — "black, used, raunchy, old," Barnes says — framed it for $50, signed the thing in silver and sold it at an auction for $200.
A buck here, a dollar there. Women athletes don't make as much money as their male counterparts. No entourages, no foundation directors, no help in setting the agenda or the schedule. Just work.
"That's why it can be special," Barnes says. "The players are touchable. When I was growing up, I never had a professional basketball player, a real mentor, that was touchable."
In 2003, two potentially devastating events shaped the foundation's early mission. First Barnes tore the ACL in her left knee, freeing time in her schedule. Then came a second painful rip: Disappearing money.
An accountant offered to take care of the paperwork to form her charity for $500. Then he stopped returning calls. Barnes eventually called the IRS with what she thought was her charity's tax number, but she found out that number belonged to a local church.
"A church, of all things!" Barnes says. "It didn't even have my name on it!"
Barnes decided to take matters into her own hands. Literally.
She went to Target and filled shopping carts with binders, notebooks and backpacks for a school-supply drive. She found sales, begged for discounts, spent thousands of her own money. For the second drive, she convinced the Storm to put bins around KeyArena.
She also did a toy drive with the YWCA, pulling the truck up to the building and unloading everything with the help of a few fans.
"After I got burned," Barnes says, "I wasn't able to trust anybody with my name. I had to do everything. I made baskets. I went to Target. It was more rewarding because I did the work myself."
Barnes played her last season with the Storm in 2004, and when she left her charity stalled. She had to decide where to locate it. In Arizona, where she's in the school's Hall of Fame? In her hometown of San Diego? Or in Seattle, where Adia's Dreams in Action left its mark? Returning to the Storm this season as a broadcaster made the decision easy.
"Adia is a smart businesswoman," says Karen Bryant, Storm chief operating officer. "She took a lot of her own time. She did a lot of due diligence."
The ideas still come to Barnes. Maybe a mentor program for future broadcasters. Or a Storm-related dog show in a local park.
It took the tear, the disappearing money, the time at Target and the $200 sports bra for Barnes to figure her charity out. And when she did, everything made sense. It wasn't a star who started one of the first female athlete's charities in Seattle. It was the role player who found her niche.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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