Chicago Sky star Candace Parker is on a mission to empower young girls.
The two-time MVP and two-time WNBA champion joined Gatorade's Fuel Tomorrow initiative Saturday at Douglas Park Cultural Center to present Girls in the Game —a local organization empowering girls through sports — with a $25,000 donation to help provide more access to girls in the community.
Parker said her mother, Natasha Parker, was a senior in high school in 1972 when Title IX was established and that her mom didn't have the same opportunities Parker did playing sports throughout junior high and high school.
"We still have a lot more to do to level the playing field to make sure that young girls at all levels are able to have equal opportunity, but Title IX has done a lot of that," Parker said. "I just challenge all of us to not be as reactive as we've been, to be proactive. To the moms and dads out there, your daughters deserve the opportunity to play, so let's continue to do that through Title IX."
Local artist Fantasia Graham, 27, was invited by Gatorade to create a mural to inspire young female athletes. The artist was informed about the project last week and was given about four days to complete the mural. The artwork features girls playing basketball around Parker, who's wearing her home Sky uniform.
"I was really grateful to get this opportunity," Graham said. "I think that this is really just important to have and I feel like for every young girl they should know that their future is everlasting and it's ever-growing and there's no just one option or several options."
In her 15th season, Parker will make her seventh appearance in Sunday's All-Star Game. The Chicagoland native recalled one of her favorite memories watching the men play in the NBA All-Star Game and is looking forward to making a memorable All-Star experience in front of her home crowd.
"I'm a huge basketball fan and I can tell you my favorite NBA All-Star Game was in 2000 when A.I. (Allen Iverson) hit the ball off the back of his elbow and he threw it to himself and I was in the driveway trying to do that," Parker said. "It's a lasting impact on me, and so I think that to have that opportunity, you don't have that much. And it's in Chicago. It's at home. My son and my daughter are going to be there, so I'm really excited for that."