Ketia Swanier is no stranger to the true meaning of the word “military.” She is the daughter of First Sergeant Cornell Swanier and First Sergeant Rosie Swanier, both career military personnel who served our country for a combined total of 45 years. While growing as an outstanding AAU athlete, Ketia was acutely aware of the challenges of being a military brat whose parents were serving overseas in combat areas such as Bosnia and Iraq.
Ketia was first introduced to the Amateur Athletic Union when she was 11 years old. She and her parents were on leave from their service in Germany visiting family in Georgia. Through a family member and the Internet, she was introduced to the Georgia Magic Girls Basketball Program, a very active club member of the AAU during the 1990s and early 2000s. To make a long story short, she was something special right from the beginning with speed and skills that were off the charts for such a young athlete. Ketia received permission to play with the Georgia Magic as a registered competitive athlete with temporary residence in Georgia during her family’s leave from Germany. When it was time for Ketia’s family to return to the United States, it was a natural fit that her family be stationed in Columbus, Georgia at Fort Benning. Ketia continued to play with the Georgia Magic program for the next six years, increasing her skills and knowledge of the game while her family continued to serve actively in the military. The Georgia Magic AAU Team became her second family while her parents were away. During several of the national AAU tournaments, Ketia’s father was serving tours in Iraq. It was a priority that the team keep him informed and to let him know how much his service was appreciated. It was a priority to share with him constantly how much we all loved Ketia, not only for the talent she brought to the floor but because she was a great team leader and role model: kind, polite, incredible work ethic and gracious attitude. Ketia’s team won the Georgia State Tournament seven straight years and therefore qualified for the National AAU Tournament each year. The Magic finished in the Sweet Sixteen or better each of those years. Ketia raised many an eye brow of many college scouts at those tournaments.
Ketia graduated from Columbus High School in 2004 and enrolled at the University of Connecticut on a full basketball scholarship. In addition to an illustrious basketball career, she graduated with honors in 2008. She was awarded the prestigious Sixth Man Award for the Big East Conference her senior year at UCONN after an outstanding season and tournament play. She was drafted by the Connecticut Sun in the first round where she played her first season of professional ball. However, playing professional ball was not the only thing for which Ketia had a real passion. It was her dream and the dream of her parents to create a non-profit organization whose mission would address the needs of children of military parents—something as simple as school supplies or as unique receiving special sports instruction from seasoned basketball veterans. The dream was realized when Ketia, with the aid of her parents, formed the Ketia4Kidz Foundation.
Ketia4Kidz Foundation, Inc is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization created to provide tangible support to the children of deployed and severely injured active duty military service members of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Foundation provides enrichment activities and tutoring programs that nurture and sustain the children during the time a parent is away in service to our country, particularly through promoting excellence in academics to all school-age children residing on military installations and in local military communities most directly affected by worldwide deployments. For Ketia, the mission is a hands-on affair. When she is not training, she provides time, knowledge, valuable experience and guidance directly in mentoring programs and through visiting military installations, hospitals and Fisher Houses that house wounded soldiers of Iraq and Afghanistan and their families.
Ketia now plays for the Phoenix Mercury, the 2009 WNBA Champions. She continues to love the game of basketball and her work with her new foundation, Ketia4Kidz. More importantly, she continues to be a positive role model and ambassador for AAU to young women involved in the sport of girls’ basketball all over the country and does an incredible service for the men and women of our armed service by taking an interest in the needs of their children. She brings awareness to us all of what our support can mean to these deserving children whose parents put their lives on the line for us each and every day.