Cecelie Owens Receives 2018 espnW Toyota Everyday Heroes Award
You might know Cecelie Owens as the first African-American woman inducted into the Buffalo State College Athletic Hall of Fame or that she set 19 records during her career with the Buffalo State Women’s Basketball program. You may know Cecelie Owens as the dynamic, energetic, no nonsense disciplinarian and Principal of Public School #94 West Hertel Academy.
You may know Cecelie Owens as the Founder of G.I.R.L.S. Sports Foundation (GSF). You may even know her as the party rocking House Music DJ who will not hesitate to step from behind the DJ booth to hit her two step.
Following today, you’ll also have to recognize her as a hero. Cecelie was recently honored as a part of the sixth class of Everyday Heroes at the ninth annual espnW: Women + Sports Summit held in Newport Beach, California. As one of three national honorees’ she received the Toyota Driving Solutions Grant worth $10,000 to be used for her G. I.R.L.S. Sports Foundation organization.
In regards to the game of basketball, Cecelie has proven time and time again that if you give the game one hundred percent of your love, passion, desire and effort, that when the time is right, the game will find a way to give back to you in the same regard. Her presence exudes love and compassion. You don’t have to know anything about her to know that basketball is who she is. It’s at the core of her D.N.A. Even if you’ve never seen her play, you have a small voice in your head that tells you that she’s still got it.
But what pushes her to continue to be who she is? Cecelie attributes all of her success to the positive role models and influencers she’s had and continues to have in her life as well as her desire to provide that same mentorship and leadership to the young women of Buffalo through sports. Cecelie possess the heart of a true Buffalonian. That is the heart of a Champion. She desperately desires to change the trajectory of young women’s lives through the use of sport.
When Cecelie received the phone call stating that she’d been named one of three Toyota Everyday Hero recipients and that she’d be sent out to Newport Beach, California for the ceremony where she and the two other recipients would be honored, she was absolutely floored. Her sister, who co-founded the foundation, was unable to attend so she brought her niece, Dierra, who plays an intricate role in all of the organizations day to day operations. Attendees of the event included huge names in sports such as Candace Parker, Cari Champion, Danica Patrick, the Gold Medal- Winning 2018 U.S. Olympic Women’s Hockey Team, Maria Taylor, Doris Burke, Andra Day, Sage Steele and many more! If nothing else, it was a huge networking opportunity for Cecelie to bring attention to the wonderful City of Buffalo in which she proudly represented.
“Recharged, Reenergized, Refueled and ready to Re-Launch!” were the words used by Cecelie in reflecting on her journey and looking towards what’s next. She began her journey with the NYSP – National Youth Sports Program at Buffalo State College where she ran a sports camp for ten years. Federal Grant funding ceased and the program ended but Cecelie felt compelled to continue to provide an outlet for girls who play sports. So she did just that.
On April 14, 2007, G.I.R.L.S. Sports Foundation launched its first event where they held a girls’ basketball camp. The event brought out over 90 girls. Since then, Cecelie has helped and touched the lives of over 5,000 girls using her platform in sports. G.I.R.L.S. Sports Foundation holds several annual events such as the Juneteenth Celebration of Basketball, Girls Sports Foundation Basketball Showcase held at St. Mary’s School of the Deaf, and a round trip to a WNBA Basketball Game.
Upon Returning from Newport Beach, CA, Cecelie threw a celebration at Preservation Pub. In attendance were Buffalo’s big names including Mayor Byron Brown, Betty Jean Grant, Judge James McLeod and a host of friends and family.
“My greatest experience with The Girls Sports Foundation is the gratitude that I receive from families which encourages me to reach out to alumni of the foundation’s programs and continue to offer mentorship.” Driven by the death of former participant, Shmerea Nailor, who was murdered in 2014, Cecelie says that she’s “driven to continue to mentor and nurture young women of Buffalo” while she has the opportunity. “Everything that the Girls Sports Foundation stood for wasn’t enough to save her, and I’m driven to do more” said Cecelie in reflecting on Shmerea’s death.
“I’m really grateful for our volunteer staff, Dorothy Jones, Brenda Jones, Joyce Wilson-Nixon, The City of Buffalo and Mayor Byron Brown, Barbara Miller-Williams, Betty Jean Grant, The Challenger News, Crystal People-Stokes, Community Action Organization (who allowed us to hold our first clinic at the Edward Saunders Center), and the African American Culture Center and the entire population of the City of Buffalo. Cecelie is currently working with The Ralph Wilson, Jr. Foundation to secure additional grant funding. The foundation, she said, “is in full support of the vision and mission of the GSF,” and she is “grateful for the relationship that she’s developed with Mary Wilson and Bridget Niland.”
In asking Cecelie what she wants the public to know about her, her response was “I’m passionate about helping young women use sports as an outlet and as an opportunity, I want families to know that they are welcome to be a part of G.I.R.L.S. Sports Foundation and to also support the foundation, and lastly that the G.I.R.L.S. Sports Foundation is a God given program, meaning that God guides my actions and ambitions and I follow.”
You can watch the full video and presentation of the espnW: Women + Sports Summit at http://www.espn.com/espnw/