Kelli - AEF Athlete, Producer, all around All-Star
At AEF it takes a team of dedicated athletes, teams, partners, volunteers, and more to put on events for cancer fighting kids. Once in a blue moon, we stumble on a person who emulates all characteristics needed to empower kids in the fight for their lives. Kelli came to AEF as a University of Washington basketball player wanting to be more involved. She was the spearhead in evolving our relationship with UW Athletics and is one of the best on field producers in the game.
Below is Kelli's journey with AEF from the perspective of an MVP athlete and eventual Producer:
Austen Everett Foundation through my athlete lens: I remember the first time my eyes were opened to the Austen Everett Foundation. I was a sophomore on the University of Washington Women’s Basketball team and I had just shown up for our pregame shoot around. I saw the sweetest little girl and her family come walking down the stairs. She was pale, wore a bandana on her pretty bald head, and her smile shined brighter than anyone else’s in the room. She was our Austen Everett Foundation Honorary Captain. The joy, hope and sparkle in our sweet Captain’s eyes lit up the entire arena. She very quickly became the center of our entire teams’ attention. She was out on the court posing for pictures and passing with us. We were told that she has been battling cancer for the last couple years and that there was a lot of uncertainty with her situation. But you would never know by looking at her. She smiled from cheek to cheek, held her basketball with all of her might, and cheered like there was no tomorrow. During the game, she sat on the end of the bench and was the best cheerleader we could have asked for. She truly became the most important member of our team that day. I think as a player it is so easy to lose perspective on real life sometimes. The day-to-day grind and the pressure to perform can sometimes stand in the way of focusing on what is really important. Having Honorary Captains forces you to take a step back and see what really matters and to believe is something so much bigger than yourself. I can’t remember whether my team won or lost, whether I played well or didn’t, or even who we were playing against; but I can remember the joy our captain brought to every one of us and how much she inspired me and the pure, undeniable joy that radiated from her.
Austen Everett Foundation through my producer lens: Without getting into the details, I ended up having my basketball career cut short due to injuries. Upon medically retiring, I had no idea what my next turn was. I remember sitting in the empty arena and reflecting on my favorite memories from my playing career. I remembered all of our previous Honorary Captains and the degree to which the program impacts lives and knew that I wanted to be a small piece in that. And so I partnered with the Austen Everett Foundation to bring Honorary Captains across the UW athletic department. Austen Everett Foundation is incredible. I have been blessed to see first hand how much time, attention and detail gets put into making every captain experience one to remember. They truly go above and beyond to make every captain feel known and special. They work with every captain and specifically tailor the day to the captain and their family, giving them a “VIP” experience. My favorite part about working with Austen Everett Foundation is getting to see how they manage to bring out the “good” in everyone involved: from the captain and the excitement that comes from the entire family, the players and coaches and how they encourage and befriend the captains, to even how the fans uplift and cheer for the captains. While Austen Everett Foundation’s mission is to empower kids in their fight against cancer, they don’t just stop there. I would add that they empower all parties involved to play a part in much bigger than a game. So, thank you Austen Everett Foundation, for who you are and what you stand for. You are changing lives and I am so grateful to be a little piece!