–2013 Rookie of the Year Unites Love of Basketball with Love of Acceptance, Inclusion, Dignity and Respect of Others–

“The minute she stepped into the league, Elena has done everything possible to make a difference not just on the basketball court, but in the community as well,” said WNBA President Laurel J. Richie. “Her resilience and dedication as an athlete is matched by her passion for making a difference in the community. She’s a genuine role model in everything that she does.”

Delle Donne’s primary focus is working with the Special Olympics, a cause that has very personal meaning. Her sister Lizzie is autistic, has cerebral palsy and is blind and deaf. Delle Donne participated in several Special Olympic clinics and events throughout the year, including several basketball clinics held in Chicago. Additionally, she played in the NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Sports Basketball Game. Due to her work and dedication with the Special Olympics, Delle Donne was named a Special Olympics Global Ambassador. In honor of her sister, Delle Donne joined an elite group of Global Ambassadors to elevate the Special Olympics movement and advance opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. Delle Donne made a pledge through R-Word.org to respect all people – those with and without intellectual disabilities – and end the use of the “r-word,” a pledge that was part of Spread the Word to End the Word Awareness Day, which took place on March 5.

In addition to her work and passion for the Special Olympics, Delle Donne helps to bring awareness and education to Lyme disease, an ailment she herself is battling. She attended a Delaware 87ers game during the 2013 offseason to help raise awareness for Lyme disease. Staying healthy continues to be a daily battle for Delle Donne, who missed games on June 10 and June 13 to receive treatment for a Lyme disease flare-up. Delle Donne’s perseverance has provided inspiration and education, and continues to fuel a conversation among countless Americans about the physical and emotional challenges associated with Lyme disease. For her contributions to Lyme research and awareness, Delle Donne was honored with the StarLight Award by Lyme Research Alliance on April 5.

“Elena’s commitment to making a difference in her community has been evident since her collegiate days at Delaware” said WNBA Legend and University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley. “Her dedication to bringing awareness to Lyme disease and working with Special Olympics brings visible impact to two important causes. It’s my pleasure to honor Elena with this year’s Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award.”

The Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award is presented annually. Each WNBA team nominated one player and a designated committee selected Delle Donne as the winner. The WNBA will make a $10,000 donation to the Lyme Research Alliance on behalf of Delle Donne.

“It’s an honor to receive the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award. I’ve always looked up to Dawn for her accomplishments on the court and in the community,” said Delle Donne. “As an athlete, you’re given an enormous platform to use however you choose. By sharing my personal experiences with Lyme disease, along with my sister Lizzie’s fight with her ailment, I’ve been able to help educate and inspire others to overcome obstacles that they’re faced with. I’m thankful to the WNBA, Special Olympics, Lyme Research Alliance and Dawn for giving me an avenue off the court to make a difference.”

Continue Reading… (via WNBA.com)