One of the most philanthropically-minded athletes I know is Tamika Catchings.
The former Stevenson basketball star and the reigning most valuable player of the WNBA started her own foundation in 2005.
Catchings' "Catch the Stars Foundation" provides fitness, academic and social support programs for kids in Indianapolis, where Catchings has played her entire WNBA career with the Indiana Fever.
Not surprisingly, Catchings is a fan favorite in Indy, not only cheered for her amazing talents, but also beloved for her tireless work in the community.
I learned recently that Chicago is going to be getting its own version of a Tamika Catchings.
The Sky's blockbuster acquisition of veteran forward Swin Cash last week will provide an instant improvement to the lineup. But Cash will also be trying her hardest to improve the community while she's here.
"In every city I play in, I try to leave some kind of legacy in the community that helps kids," Cash said. "I am really looking forward to finding the right fit in the Chicago area."
In WNBA circles, Cash is right there with Catchings when it comes to community service and charitable activity.
Seven years ago, Cash created "Cash for Kids." Like Catchings' foundation, "Cash for Kids" works to support kids on all levels, in sports, in the classroom and in their social circles by providing financial and hands-on assistance.
"I'm excited on a business end to have a player like Swin help us market our team," Sky president Adam Fox said. "As good as she is on the court, and as much of a draw as she'll be there, she's even better off the court with all the things she does in the community. She really makes so many great connections and is so committed to the people of the city she's playing in."
Cash began her charity when she played in Detroit with the Shock, which has since moved on to Tulsa. "Cash for Kids" teamed up with schools and youth organizations in the Detroit area to reach hundreds of kids.
Even when she left Detroit for Seattle, and even now that Detroit no longer has a WNBA team, Cash kept her ties to Detroit and still runs "Cash for Kids" programs there. "Cash for Kids" also now operates in Seattle, as well as in Swin's childhood hometown of McKeesport, Penn.
"I grew up in very humble beginnings. My mom had me at a very young age and it was tough for us," Cash said. "But with basketball, I have been very blessed and I've been given a lot of great opportunities.
"I really believe when you make it, you've got to give back. One of my top goals with 'Cash for Kids' is to teach the kids that we're helping that they can give back, too, so that cycle of giving continues."
One big project Cash is working on is creating an alternative school in the Detroit area for young women and girls with children. She also sponsors a youth sports league in her hometown in Pennsylvania and works with various Boys and Girls Clubs to run the "Influence Her" program, which tries to build up the self-esteems of girls through academics, athletics and the arts.
"I love working with kids," Cash said. "It's a great feeling to know you're doing something positive in a community that could really help the next generation."
This and that: Not to be out-done by Brandon Paul of Illinois, who hit eight 3-pointers and scored 43 points on 15 shots Tuesday in an upset win over Ohio State, Purdue guard Brittany Rayburn went out and had herself her own shining moment. She tied an NCAA women's record with 12 3-pointers and scored 38 points to help the Boilermakers cruise to a 72-55 win over Minnesota on Thursday night. Rayburn was 12-for-16, all from beyond the arc, to lead Purdue (14-3, 4-0 Big Ten) to its seventh straight win. Rayburn equaled the mark set by LSU's Cornelia Gayden in 1995. ... The DePaul women's basketball team is hanging in there with a 14-3 record and a No. 19 national ranking despite the fact that star forward Keisha Hampton (16.6 ppg) has missed the last five games. Hampton learned late last week that her career is over due to a knee injury. The Blue Demons host perennial power Connecticut at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21, at McGrath-Phillips Arena in Lincoln Park.
•Patricia Babcock McGraw, who covers the WNBA for the Daily Herald, provides color commentary for Chicago Sky broadcasts. She also is a color analyst for the Big Ten Network, the IHSA Television Network and DePaul women's basketball broadcasts.