Chelsea Gray was driving to lunch with a Los Angeles Sparks teammate last year when she noticed a large number of homeless children near where she was going to eat.
The guard with Manteca roots wanted to help them, so she partnered with HavASole , a group that works with at-risk youth and the homeless, and donated shoes and hygiene products. She wanted to do more.
On Thursday, Gray was joined by some of her Los Angeles teammates, a day before they play Game 3 of the WNBA Finals, at Safe Place for Youth to give out sneakers, clothes, and other things.
“We’re lucky to do what we love and you don’t know why they are in the situation they are in so I want to help as much as possible,” Gray said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday night. “You never know. One minute everything can be taken away from you.”
Gray, who hit the game-winner in the series opener against Minnesota, hopes this can be an annual thing. She got Adidas to donate over 40 pairs of sneakers.
“We are so proud of the work that Chelsea has done in the community since she joined our organization,” Sparks president and COO Christine Simmons said. “Each season she has made it a priority to make advocating for our city’s most at-risk populations as a part of her platform. Moreover, she inspires our amazing fans and the LA community to give back as well.”
Gray also said she likes to spend time talking to the kids, who range in age from 1-18.
“I love this establishment and having a chance to talk with them,” Gray said. “It’s a little bit of our day before we go home and rest and get ready.”
The Lynx tied up the best-of-five series at 1-all Tuesday night with a two-point win.
“I think it’s good basketball,” Gray said. “The top teams going head-to-head. It’s a great finals match.”
Gray graduated from Brock Elliot School in Manteca before starring at St. Mary’s High of Stockton and earning All-America honors during her decorated collegiate career for Duke.
Here are a few other tidbits heading into the WNBA Finals Game 3:
RINSE, REPEAT: The 2017 WNBA Finals are somewhat mirroring last year’s matchup between the Sparks and Lynx. Los Angeles took Game 1 both times on last-second shots. Minnesota responded with a victory in the second game both years. They had to hold on for the victory this season whereas they won by 19 points last year. The Sparks took Game 3 last year, winning by 17 points.
“Now it’s a three-game series,” Sparks forward Candace Parker said. “We have home-court advantage, but at the same time, last year that meant nothing. This year I think we’ve proven it doesn’t really matter where we play. It really doesn’t. I think it’s going to be a difficult series. No lead is safe, and you’re never out of the game.”
CHARITABLE DONATION: The WNBA players’ union made $35,000 donations to four different organizations, using money collected from player fines and suspensions. The union chose Girls Who Code, Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, United Nations Foundation Shot@life and Southern Poverty Law Center to receive the grants.
“The funds distributed today are a result of the fines and suspensions levied by the league during previous seasons and the union’s agreement with the league to make charitable donations with these funds,” WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike said. “Essentially, the agreement allows the WNBPA to turn words into action, and player advocacy into philanthropy.”
The WNBPA recognizes the work of each organization to not merely inspire but to empower and provide critical support for a generation of women and girls, families and communities in areas which include education, healthcare, equity and social justice and disaster/relief assistance.