Michelle Smith: Tara VanDerveer’s 3-Point Challenge has raised more than $200,000 for humanitarian efforts in Ukraine
MINNEAPOLIS - An effort that started the day before Stanford’s first NCAA Tournament game is gaining as much momentum as the Cardinal itself, which will play Friday night in the Final Four in Minneapolis against Connecticut.
And Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer is already guaranteed a win.
VanDerveer revealed her 3-point challenge before the opening round, committing to donate $10 for every 3-pointer made in the NCAA Tournament to causes supporting the humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, where the war started by Russia almost a month ago has had devastating consequences across the country.
With 749 3-pointers in the Tournament so far, VanDerveer is in for $7,490 and she is bringing her family - she has donations from both her sister Heidi and her mother Rita - and her basketball community along with her.
VanDerveer reiterated her commitment to the cause on Tuesday on a national call with the coaches participating in the Final Four. The effort is called 'Tara’s 3-Point Challenge' and the donations have surpassed $200,000. Donors include Charles Barkley, James Harden and WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart. USC head coach Lindsay Gottlieb has also joined with a pledge. In total, as of Thursday afternoon, there were 45 pledges totaling $207,735.15.
“What's happening in Ukraine is so heartbreaking that I've asked coaches and reporters, too, to join a challenge. For every three-point shot made I'm going to give $10 to three different -- divide up the money to three different humanitarian aid,” VanDerveer said. “ I have a website that I haven't done but someone else did for me just so that we can maybe make a difference as a women's basketball world, as women's basketball coaches.”
VanDerveer’s deep connection to the Ukrainian people dates back to her time with USA Basketball as the U.S. Olympic coach in 1996. The U.S. team, which would go on to win the Olympic gold medal in Atlanta, played in a tournament in Ukraine.
“We got to know the Ukrainian players because we played them like 10 times. I affectionately called them our cousins, we played them so much,” VanDerveer said. “When we were leaving, there were women outside at 3:30 in the morning waiting for us to give them money and clothes, and we did. We just felt we had to do stuff.”
Now VanDerveer feels compelled to do something again and she plans on bringing a few coaches with her, including South Carolina’s Dawn Staley and Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma.
“I know they have big contracts,” VanDerveer joked.
Stanford junior Haley Jones said the donation challenge speaks to VanDerveer’s character, and “how with her it’s always more than basketball.”
VanDerveer has a history of supporting charitable causes. With the Women’s Sports Foundation, she began the Tara VanDerveer Fund for the Advancement of Women in Coaching. And last season, during the height of the pandemic, VanDerveer committed to donate to local food banks to help families in need.
The three charities that VanDerveer will support with her pledge are Save the Children, Americares and Global Giving.
Her website is taras3ptchallenge.