WINONA LAKE — “When you think about being a champion, it’s not just being a champion. It’s a champion for Christ. Because when you focus on your goal, you focus on Him.”
Tamika Catchings, a retired professional basketball player, spoke at the first annual Love Thy Neighbor luncheon on Wednesday, Feb. 19. The event was hosted by Combined Community Services and sponsored by Parkview Warsaw. The CCS luncheon served as a fundraising event to provide needed funds to continue the organization’s mission of providing comfort, hope and resources for neighbors in need.
Catchings is best known for playing her entire career in the WNBA with Indiana Fever. During her basketball career, Catchings won a WNBA Championship, four Olympic gold medals and five WNBA Defensive Player of the Year awards. She currently serves as vice-president of basketball operations and general manager for the Indiana Fever.
The overall theme of Catchings’ message focused on what it takes to be a champion. In her speech, Catchings delivered five key points related to being a champion, including focusing on a goal, surrounding oneself with impactful people, bringing one’s skills forth, enjoying the ride and not letting adversity serve as an obstacle.
At the beginning of her speech, Catchings discussed her hearing impairment and how she was made fun of in school for her looks and the way she spoke.
“I remember every day just begging God and asking him, ‘Why did you make me like this?'” said Catchings. “I would just always go home with tears streaming down my face and I would beg my mom, ‘Please, please don’t make me go back.’ And every day, my mom would wipe away my tears and she would say, ‘Honey, I can’t let you give up.'”
Catchings also told a story about trying to figure out why her basketball team was not playing as well as they could.
“I ended up buying a puzzle and asked the team to come to the locker room,” said Catchings. “I undid the puzzle, got 12 bags and put pieces in each one. So eight people did the puzzle, four stayed in their chairs. Next thing you know, we can’t finish the puzzle. I told them, ‘Look, with four people sitting in their chairs and eight people down, we can’t complete the puzzle.'”
Catchings used the puzzle analogy to encourage those in attendance to consider how they can help organizations like CCS in order to make a difference within the community.
“Our challenge today while thinking about impact and what it takes to make a difference, is to figure out our skill sets for what we can bring to the table to help those around us,” said Catchings.
Angie Oler also spoke prior to Catchings’ speech. Oler previously received financial and material help from CCS after her husband left her and her two daughters.
“My story is the riches to rags story, so to speak,” said Oler. “My husband worked in the orthopedic industry and I worked at the YMCA as a fitness instructor. I helped put him through school so that he could further his career; while he was doing all that, I was taking care of the kids. Then in 2015, he graduated with his bachelor’s and then he took off with a family friend and left us.”
Oler received assistance through the CCS Project Independence program, which is a mentoring program that allows low-income families in Kosciusko County to achieve economic independence through education.
“The hardest part was telling my kids there would be nothing for Christmas,” said Oler. “But CCS provided Christmas for me and my girls. We all got presents that year.”
Oler is currently employed at Indiana Tech as an associate representative and will be graduating with an associate’s degree in May.
“If it hadn’t been for CCS, God and my family, I don’t think I’d be here today,” said Oler.
The keynote speaker event was hosted at Christ’s Covenant Church in Winona Lake.