UNCASVILLE -The Connecticut Sun will honor three state women as Women of Inspiration at Saturday night’s game between the Sun and the New York Liberty at the Mohegan Sun Arena at 7 p.m.
Long-distance swimmer Marcy MacDonald, speaker, counselor and advocate Sarah Gallardo and professional golfer Suzy Whaley will be recognized in a pregame reception and a halftime ceremony.
“This event is one of the highlights of our summer,” Connecticut Sun vice president and general manager Chris Sienko said. “We are excited to honor three truly amazing women, who engage, challenge and inspire every day. They are wonderful role models.”
Each year, the Sun selects three women who have distinguished themselves while positively impacting their communities. The Connecticut Sun Foundation will donate $500 in the name of each Women of Inspiration recipient to a charity of their choice.
One of these outstanding women will be selected to receive the Margo Dydek award, named in honor of the late WNBA star, and a donation of $1,000 to the charity of their choice.
Whaley has been selected to receive the Margo Dydek award.
Dydek was a former Connecticut Sun All Star who passed away unexpectedly at the age of 37 in 2011. She was an accomplished professional who finished her WNBA career as the career leader in blocks. But Dydek was better known for a warm and open spirit that endeared her to so many women’s basketball fans around the world.
“To win the Margo Dydek Award is an incredible honor,” said Whaley, the Secretary of the PGA of America. “She was just a fascinating, wonderful young woman who lost her life too soon. She really gave back not only to basketball but to those she surrounded herself with, her community and her team.”
Whaley became the first woman ever elected as an Officer of the PGA of America in 2014. Under the formal progression of offices, she is expected to become PGA President in three years, overseeing the world’s largest sports organization that conducts premier spectator events such as the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup as well as significant philanthropic outreach initiatives and award-winning golf promotions. That is just the latest in a career that has been marked by breakthroughs.
In 2003, Whaley became the first woman to compete in a PGA Tour event – the Greater Hartford Open at the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell – since Babe Zaharias in 1945. That came as a direct result of being the first woman to win a PGA of America Section Championship – the Connecticut PGA Section – in 2002.
An accomplished teacher of the game and recognized as a Top 50 instructor by Golf Digest, Whaley will donate the $1,000 she receives from the Connecticut Sun Foundation to PE2Tee. The non-profit organization helps bring golf to schools by growing the game with children of all backgrounds.
She might be accustomed to imposing challenges, but even veteran open water swimmer Marcy MacDonald admitted to being a little nervous on her last swim. On August 2, MacDonald became the first American to swim the 23-mile length of Loch Ness in Scotland. It took her 11 hours, 59 minutes and 11 seconds, the third fastest solo swim of the Loch.
A podiatrist from Andover who has swam across the English Channel 15 times (an American record), MacDonald had some extra incentive to complete her swim across Loch Ness in 51-degree water. She was raising money Homes for the Brave. The Bridgeport-based organization provides, with emphasis on veterans, the housing and services necessary to help homeless individuals return to productive and meaningful life.
“The last few winters have been really brutal here,” MacDonald said. “I just started thinking about all of the homeless people. I just can’t imagine not having a place to go home to. Or not having a place somewhere warm. And then if you serve our country and are homeless? It just got to me.”
The Connecticut Sun Foundation will donate $500 in MacDonald’s name to Homes for the Brave.
Gallardo survived 10 years of domestic violence at the hands of her ex-husband before leaving her marriage after the birth of her daughter. She turned her experience into a safe haven for others with the founding of Sarah Speaks Up, a charitable organization that raises awareness about domestic abuse, while also seeking to help educate, comfort and empower victims.
“The idea behind Sarah Speaks Up is essentially to speak up about the situation that I had been in,” she explained. “Domestic violence is typically something that people keep to themselves. It’s almost like a secret that you are carrying. For me, I felt like it was something that I had to get out. By speaking my truth, it encouraged other people to do the same thing.”
Gallardo, who is currently studying public relations at Central Connecticut State University, has become a certified domestic violence counselor and has shared her story through a variety of interviews and speaking engagements.
She is a dedicated volunteer at the Prudence Crandall Center of New Britain, a full service shelter and counseling center. It was there where she received counseling when she was in the midst of her domestic violence relationship. Now she gives back as a speaker, counselor and advocate.
The Connecticut Sun Foundation will donate $500 to Sarah Speaks Up in Gallardo’s name.